As a mum of two boys I often find myself wondering if they are part of a different species! They do things differently from me, their brains are wired differently, but one thing I really do want is to say connected to them. I want to spend time with them and I want them to WANT to spend time with us. I want them to enjoy family time and to keep me part of their life.
This month I am sharing some of my top tips to connect families over on The Family Wellbeing Club with Actimel. It is a really great website which asks you some basic questions about your family and then comes up with some tips which are very simple, but should have a great impact on the wellbeing of your family.
Make mealtimes about connecting as a family
One of the things that always amazes me is that other parenting never know what their children have been doing at school or had for dinner. Often when they ask they get told “nothing” or “I cant remember”! I get asked all the time how I know what is going on and what they are eating and for me it is down to spending time together, asking the right questions and also consistency.
Dinner time is one of the major focal points of our day as a family. MadDad makes sure that he goes to work early so he is back in time for dinner most nights and we try to eat at the table as a family as often as we can.
This become much more enjoyable and achievable as the boys got to school age. They get home from school and have a snack and then we all eat dinner together around 6pm. The boys take turns to help me cook a meal or a desert and the other one will set the table. We make an effort to eat at the dining table (except for Saturday night). We also have a set of rules, which are not negotiable that include you must try food even if you think you do not like it, you chew with your mouth closed, always say please and thank you, you ask to be excused from the table and we all clear the table together.
However, I really encourage chatting and communication. When the boys were younger we had a news style roundup from each of us, where we “reported” our news and events from the day, which included what was had for dinner, what we have done, places we have been and also anything we needed to remember. MadDad and I did this as well as the boys. I would ask open ended questions about their day and encourage them to remember as much about it as they could. Food can always be warmed up.
Ways to encourage conversation at the dinner table:
- Use story cubes
- Ask questions such as What was the best part of your day?
- My boys love hearing about when they were younger or other family members, so have conversations about how you chose their name or how you and your partner met.
- Try finding foods all of a certain colour or starting with a certain letter.
- My boys study a different topic each half term and we find out what it is and use that. For example recently the boys have been learning about Australia and Africa and we have been discussing our visit to South Africa and Captain James Cook who was from our area. The school provides us with the topic list each term and we make sure we research it, so we have something to discuss with them.
- Why not let your children interview you and you them.
Do not worry if you can not eat together as a family every night, just do the best you can and it doesn’t have to be evening meals, why not have breakfast together regularly as a family instead. Just try to make it special. We use candles, cloth napkins and glasses with a jug of water on the table. We never have the TV on whilst we eat and we have a no electronics rule. Any telephone calls go through to voicemail or answer phone. We start each meal with the intention of spending it together as a family and we wait until the last member is at the table before we start eating. We do not say grace, but we do say a thing that we are thankful for that day.
I would love to know how you make mealtimes work for you.