Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Family Dinners

We have all heard that it is important to eat at least some meals together as a family.  We also know that with everyone's hectic schedules, this can prove to be almost impossible.  As kids get older, and into more and more activities, the evenings seem to rush by with practices and driving the kids here and there.  For families with older kids, it is extremely difficult to find a night that the whole family is at home at the same time.  But, try to eat together for at least a couple of meals.  Meal time is an ideal time to sit and talk with one another; to find out what each family member has been doing and find out how their days are going.  Children will open up about school, their friends and their teachers.  Parents can share what their days entail and tell fun stories about what happened during the day.  Meals are a great time to sit down and discuss problems and difficulties that the children are having and allow open communication between family members.  Older children get a sense of importance when their parents genuinely listen to them, without distractions.

Family meal times are also very beneficial to families with toddlers and small children.  Toddlers learn by example and meals are a great time to teach table manners and socially acceptable ways of eating.  Children can learn to use their utensils by watching their parents or older siblings use them.  They can learn that it is not socially acceptable to use their hands to shovel food into their mouth.  And small children can learn to use open cups during family meal time. (for those children not quite accurate with drinking from an open cup, give small cups with only a tiny bit of liquid).  Social skills, such as the art of conversation, can be learned while sitting at a meal.  Include your child in the conversations; no matter how young your child is.  So many parents allow children to sit at the table, either at home or in restaurants, with electronic devices to entertain them so that the parents are able to get a quite, less stressful, meal. While this may be ok occasionally, it is important to teach children to sit during meals and quietly engage in the table conversation.  Many children get so accustomed to being entertained by games during meals that they are unable to sit appropriately, without devices, when necessary.  So, start at home. and at a young age, and teach your children these essential social skills.  It may be difficult at first, but in the long run, you will be glad you did.  You and your children will be able to go out to eat and enjoy the meal together.

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