“Dinner Time Is the Worse!”
Meredith lamented when I asked her what was one of her most stressful times of her day as a parent. Meredith complained feeling like a drill Sergeant, constantly barking orders to her children to “sit down!” “chew with your mouth closed;” or rattling off the to-do list of homework and chores.
The truth is, dinner is one of the most powerful ways parents can have a positive impact on their child’s well being, however, a lot of parents like Meredith see it as a task that causes more heartburn than heartwarming memories. Sharing a meal helps kids and parents stay and feel connected.
As long as it is done in the right way purposefully infused with positive emotions, such as joy, warmth, humor, love or gratitude. It is well-documented in research that the best predictor of childhood outcomes on emotional and psychological health is a warm positive parent-child relationship.
Family mealtime provides the perfect place for nurturing childhood roots of warm positive connection between you and your children.
4 Ways to Maximize Mealtime and Promote Positive Connection:
Dinner does not have to be a chore or a bore with a little extra planning. Here are four quick tips to power up positive connection at mealtime:
1. Be Present and Listen
Show your kids that mealtime with family is important to you. Turn off the screens and put the cell phones away.
Tune in by actively listening, looking at your child, asking questions, and making connected comments with genuine interest and care.
2. Engage in Meaningful Conversation
Sometimes easier said than done, especially when long days lead to cranky moods. Go beyond the standard default “How was your day?”
Ask questions such as “What is something that made you laugh today?” Have everyone share a proud, interesting, or surprising moment from their day.
3. Dish Out Gratitude
Share What Went Well (WWW) that day. This simple act of reflecting and recognizing the small things in our day that happened – moments that we enjoyed or are grateful for – has been scientifically proven to increase our psychological and social happiness and well-being.
When parents talk about the small things they are grateful for and what they appreciate in their children, we not only get more enjoyment of our time together, but we help teach the simple yet powerful habit of gratitude.
4. Level Up the Fun Factor
Making mealtime fun and enjoyable can take different forms for different families and certainly can depend on what is going on in the busy lives of our families.
Making mealtime enjoyable can range from lighting candles, playing music or playing games.
Riddles and various parlor guessing games are a regular occurring entertainment at my family’s dinner table. Some of our favorite guessing games are 20 Questions, Who am I? Would You Rather? Two Truths and One Lie.
Mealtime is but one small activity in our lives that we can nurture and promote rich and meaningful connectedness with our children each day.
There are many opportunities to express genuine gratitude, show interest in our child’s interests, provide affection, and engage in shared moments of joy and awe when we parent each day with purpose.