Today, it is normal to see a family gathered around the dinner table, but instead of communicating with each other, they have their eyes glued to their mobile devices. Many of us overlook the beauty of eating together — how a simple activity can go a long way in forging resilient family bonds.
Family meals are the perfect opportunity to engage in conversations with one another. Some even consider daily or weekly family dinners a tradition upheld through generations. In fact, children who eat regularly with their families have a stronger sense of security and stability — critical in teenage years.
Here are some practical tips for parents, families and extended families to ensure that real conversations and meaningful bonding happens at mealtimes:
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1. Start young
Inculcate good habits in your children from an early age. Make it a family rule where mobile devices and other distractions are put away during mealtimes. Explain why mealtimes are precious time with the family and how each mealtime presents an opportunity for family members to get to know one another on a deeper and more meaningful level.
2. Approach a conversation with your child as a friend would. This, however, does not mean that you are obliged to act like their friend instead of their parent. There are boundaries and expectations that cannot be compromised. But before you dive into parent mode, consider the child’s viewpoint. Understand that it might not have been easy for them to open up to you. It’s best to internalise the situation and respond to them with love. Your aim is to have your children feel comfortable around you, while respecting you.
3. Experiment with different recipes and make each meal special.
Put together a picnic basket with every family member’s favourite food, or purchase organic produce from a farmers’ market to whip up a healthy meal. Preparing meals with your children can help you learn about their likes and dislikes. Family meals on weekends or at the end of a long day can thus be something that everyone can look forward to.
4. Explore new surroundings and creative ways to have a meal together.
An evening picnic under the stars and catching your favourite family movie, or a breakfast picnic enjoying local delights – there are more ways than one to bring the family together to bond over food and conversations. This will also give your child something to look forward to during family meals.
At the end of the day, family meals create a plethora of benefits for every member of the family – from positive child development to deeper levels of engagement across the generations. Why not start simple and explore a picnic at the Families for Life Celebrations 2017? It might be the perfect start to your family weekend in this June’s school holidays.
Claire Nazar is a director of Kalco Law LLC, a mother of two and a council member of Families for Life. Together with her husband, she has been a facilitator for the 18-hour intensive marital communication skills training, Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Programme (PREP) designed by the University of Denver, US, since 2006.
The Families for Life Celebrations 2017 takes place on 28 May 2017 and there will be lots of opportunities for you to forge closer bonds with your family members over fitness, food, entertainment, arts and culture. It’s also a good time to put the above tips in action. Click here for more information.