The final routine I have for you in my miniseries is the meals routine. This may totally useless for some families. Really and truly, some families do not experience trouble during meal times. Yet, research has found this time to be amongst the most challenging for families. I am hopeful that with this last blog I can close the circle of routines nicely, giving you a well rounded set of tips to make your life a bit simpler.
What I find helps in meal times is to set the ambience. Think of it this way; when you want to spend a nice romantic evening with your partner, you generally set the table, light candles and turn off all other TVs and equipment. In this way, you can focus on each other and you know that you are expected to give your undivided attention to the activity which is the meal. In our society, meal times are a very important time for connection. In fact, many have pointed out with outrage how technology has stolen this solemnity from dinner time. However, before pointing fingers I must ask how we enable our own circumstance. I am not trying to blame anyone, but it stands to reason that if the television is on, or if we permit the use of tablets on the dinner table there stands a good chance that the child will opt to look at those. So setting the ambience is great.
To set the ambience all members have to know more about the behaviour expected. All members of the family should be aware that they are expected to be seated at a particular time and that this is a time for the family. Have the kids help you, during cooking or during the setting up for the table. My advice is to turn off the wifi and television. I am not against background music, though.
Another important item in your preparation is finding good subjects to talk about. Sometimes you need to be the one to initiate conversation about the day or about other topics of interest. I must warn you – on occasions children may be unwilling to share what happened at school. So be appreciative of this and avoid forcing this form of sharing.
Finally, I came across a very beautiful dinner setting. A family I worked with came up with a simple, yet brilliant idea. They adopt, what seems to be very popular in Turkish culture, the sharing of platters method. In our culture we usually pour the portions in an individual plate and each member receives his or her plate. The difference here is that the food is set in the centre of the table and each member has to take from the middle. I completely fell in love with this method as I saw the family members getting along marvellously. I could see the kids learning how to share and how to be more mindful about others around the table (by leaving some for mum). Simple but beautiful.
I hope that you have found this miniseries informative and useful. I reiterate, as I opened these blogs, that my ideas here represent only a fraction of techniques that can be used. Other people have been more creative and have other brilliant tips to share. Yet I hope that the insight I gave her can be of help for all the readers to get their juices flowing and start to create their own methods and adopt their own unique styles. Just remember, parenting does not come with a manual, mainly because you are the write of your own stories! Best of luck.
– Steve Libreri is a social worker and parent coach within Willingness. He offers parent coaching and social work sessions. He can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org.