Story by Jo Ann Wentzel
There are few places better to connect than the dinner table. You see kids constantly without really seeing them. You shuffle them to and from activities or pass them in the hall, but often do not even look at each other. When people sit across from each other at mealtimes, there is an opportunity to really be in touch.
Mealtimes should be pleasant in order to assure good digestion, but when everyone is relaxed other phenomenon takes place. Families talk to each other. They share their day, and sometimes casual remarks lead to more enlightening conversations. This is your chance to touch base and really know what your teen is doing.
When families do not talk at the dinner table as I have been told is custom in some families, they miss out on an opportunity to know each other better. Just rushing through eating makes it less of an enjoyment and almost a chore. Even worse are those who never sit down at the same time to eat. It is such an important concept, that dinner was often rescheduled in my foster home so everyone could share this time together. It is tough with so many extracurricular activities, but should be considered a goal worth trying to achieve.
The priority of sharing mealtimes should be a closer more open relationship. It is a good time to ‘eyeball’ your child and look for problem signs as well.
This is the time to listen to new names, places, and activities that your child holds important. These casual inclusions into your conversations may offer you valuable clues when a problem develops. It may give you ideas on where to look for your child if they are late or missing. It can also give you insight into what types of activities they are engaged in. It’s the perfect opportunity to listen and take mental notes without grilling them. We must always protect our children’s safety even when they wish we would not do so.
The most important part of mealtimes should be developing a closer bond and really listening to your kids. Make an effort today to sit down together at the dinner table and form a loving, and lasting, relationship with your child.