Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Family Meal—The Bonus

The family meal can be a really rewarding and satisfying time of day. It gives you a chance to stop for a minute and appreciate your partner, your kids, and yourself. You may be surprised how much more you learn about your kids and what they are doing when you’ve got them at the table. If you haven’t had a family meal in a while, your kids might be a little skeptical and not so open to chatting that first night. But as they realize that sitting down to dinner is regular gig, they will see the opportunity and open up. My kids are usually competing for who gets to tell his or her story first, and we have to be sure that each gets a moment in the spotlight.

That’s one secret of the family table: It's a time for listening to and learning from each other, a time to enjoy each other.

Stumped on how to get your kids talking? Here's some general ideas for talking to your kids. If communication seems to be a battle with you and your kids, I would recommend How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. Although the book can read as a little outdated or simplistic, many of the ideas really worked for me. I read the first book when my kids were toddlers and I re-visit their concepts again and again as my kids get older. (Faber and Mazlish also have a newer book for teens and the tougher to talk about issues.) Basically the idea is to make dinner an enjoyable time to talk, not a battleground time.

If the kids are reluctant to talk initially, just try talking about your own day, or asking your spouse about something at work or at home. The minute you start talking, one of your kids is bound to interrupt! (If you can, swallow your annoyance and listen.) And if the kids don't talk too much tonight, maybe you will get a chance to talk to your partner about something interesting. The kids might chime in tomorrow!

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