In our hurry-up, time-pressured world, it’s challenging for families to eat dinner together, much less have meaningful conversation around the dinner table. Between parents’ schedules – business travel, dinner meetings, networking events, etc. – and kids’ schedules – soccer practice, dance class, and piano lessons – it takes a Master Scheduler to line up family members’ schedules to share a meal together. Oftentimes dinners are on the run (via the drive-thru at McDonalds) between activities.
Despite the challenge, working moms would be wise to make family meals a priority. Research shows positive effects on children when the family shares at least three family meals together per week. In fact, it’s the single strongest predictor of better achievement scores and fewer behavioral problems for school-age children. Also, children are more likely to be in a normal weight range.
Given the importance of family meals, how can you make mealtime more meaningful? Here are four tips to build stronger family bonds at the dinner table.
Turn off electronics. In our techie world, it’s easy to succumb to digital distractions. Instead, turn off the TV and put cell phones and gaming devices away.
Play background music. Background music helps create a convivial dining atmosphere. Let family members take turns making music selections, which helps kids feel involved. The only rule: The music should be calm for dining.
Discuss your day. Have everyone share how their day went – the good, the bad, and the daunting – and offer encouragement and support. Save big problem-solving or disciplinary issues for later.
Make a topic list. A mental list of talking points aids conversation and helps break through silences. Shoot for specific topics. When asked, “How was school today?” you’re likely to get the same one-word answer – “boring”. Instead, ask, “What was the most interesting thing you learned today?”
By making dinnertime conversation the norm early on, you’ll create a habit of table talk that may help even sullen teens speak up later.