How parents can use dinner time to connect with their kids

How parents can use dinner time to connect with their kids

“If the home is a body, the table is the heart, the beating centre.” - Shauna Niequist.

We experience firsthand how kids move further away and away from us at some point in our parenting lives. The clingy baby that never wanted to leave our side turns into an independent toddler, an adventurous kid, and a teenager with interests we can’t sometimes keep up with.

The more our kids explore the world, it’s easy to feel that making connections with them becomes more challenging. Oh, if we only could take a quick moment to gather them and just reconnect with them, not letting the outside world or social media get in the way.

In truth, there is a time every day when we can create these meaningful memories - dinner time.

What kids learn from the dinner table

In the hustle and bustle of our lives, dinner time can feel like another obligation on our to-do lists. There are deadlines to catch, homework to finish, a tv show we can’t miss, and some household chores to get our hands on ASAP. It seems the most convenient thing to do is just to eat quickly and proceed to other essential tasks.

Fortunately, more and more parents are seeing the benefits of making family meals - and they aren’t limited to healthy calories. Eating together offers a daily opportunity for us and our kids to squeeze in reconnection and conversations in our busy schedules.

  • Healthy communication

We know this - striking up a conversation with kids isn’t the easiest thing to do. Dinner time allows the family to gather and talk. During this time, we - together with our kids, can improve how we communicate with one another.

  • Work on self-esteem issues

When our kids see us listening intently to what they want to share with us, it sends them this message: “What you are saying matters to me because you are important.” Kids can get that extra boost of confidence when they know they matter to mom and dad.

  • Address concerns

Dinner time comes with a relaxed setting that sets down our defense. Experts call this “pizza time.” We tend to be less defensive during the evenings, which allows us to see any concern from our kids objectively.

  • Develop trust

Mom and dad listen. Mom and dad are eager to help. Mom and dad are on their side. If kids realize this during dinner time, their trust in their parents can increase significantly.

So how do we make mealtimes more meaningful?

Now comes the golden question - how do we elevate our kids’ experience during meal times? Here are some suggestions on creating the connection and bond with kids that last their whole lives. * Be genuinely interested in what they tell you

The older our kids get, the more challenging it can be to earn their trust and confidence. We hear of children heartbroken because either their parents just stay glued on the phone or don’t get what they want to communicate. Be present. Ask questions. Know what matters to them, and make that also count for you. Show them that you’re all ears for what they want to tell you.

  • Leave the judgments and assumptions at the door

It’s tempting - when the mood is right, and we find that perfect opportunity to ask them why they’re sometimes sassy with us, it’s just so compelling to give it a go. But we know how easy it is for reprimands and corrections to ruin family gatherings. Leave the sermons out the door - there’s another time for them.

  • Ask questions that let them know you’re interested in their lives

Starting a family habit of talking to kids during dinner time can make us feel, “Well, how do we start?” Asking simple questions like “How’s your day?” and “Is there anything about today that made you happy?” We can build on other conversation starters as we go.

  • Respect differences in insights

So our child said something that - gasp - is quite different from what we think. Self-confident kids who know that their parents will listen to them might say things that rock us. The simple formula - says experts - is to agree to disagree lovingly. Listening to their thoughts, and encouraging a healthy exchange with a dose of non-judgmental questions can help us navigate disagreements.

  • Have fun

We only have a limited time with our kids - before we know it, they’re already leaving the nest. For sure, kids will not always remember how yum the food was, but they will always have a memory of how the dinner table was filled with laughter.

To all parents, we’re our kids’ best teammates, and they deserve to know that. We can bring back laughter, connection, healthy communication, and lots of love - just right on the dinner table.

Article supplied by Bibs Manila AU.