Tag Archives: dinner communication

Sunday Morning Shout Out


dinnerWe all know dinner together as a family is important.  But did you know it is the best predictor of how adolescence will go for our children?  In my favorite go- to place for professional advice about “Happy Familiying,” Dr. Laura Markham, Ph.D., at the “Aha Parenting” website, discusses why dinner and eating together are the glue that keep families strong.

Dinner is a protective factor for all family members and an extremely powerful one for adolescents, especially.  The more frequently teens eat with their families, the more likely they are: to do well in school, not do drugs, and become sexually active in high school, depressed, or suicidal.  They are many factors at play.  Families that regularly eat together, offer structure and routine to their children.  They offer oversight and supervision to teens and all children, in a world that can be utterly fast and risky for all.  Dinnertime offers children a sense of identity as a family, tradition, and stability.  In a world where a lot is changeable and stressful, regular dinner offers a family a constant.  Dinnertime is a place to check in with one another about each other’s day—the good, bad, and ugly.  It is a place to ask more questions about what occurred at school; what your children’s feelings and thoughts are about family events; and it is a place to weigh in, for all parties.  Most importantly, it is a place to belong, connect, and build better relationships.

As ideal as this sounds, life is not always conducive to sitting down together.  Many different schedules can exist in the same house.  If this is not happening at all, Markham says to aim for a few days a week.  The more times you can do this, the greater the effect! Perhaps it is a single parent home. Maybe, one spouse works later than another.  There is still great power in sitting down together regularly, as a family with a single parent or as a family where one parent is the regular one at dinner.  Markham suggests if one parent gets home later than the other, everyone could sit down and have a snack together.  Or, there could be special emphasis placed on weekend dinners together.  Weekends could then be kept sacred for dinner.  She also states that families may want to adjust dinner time to eat earlier or later, if it means everyone can eat together.

There are other practical things to keep in mind, according to Markham.  Do not get hung up on making an elaborate dinner, at the expense of energy, patience, and time! It is better to put all these ingredients into the actual activity of connecting with one another.  She also talks about creating a welcoming dinner atmosphere, and biting your tongue as a parent if needed.  The idea is build up one another and connect as a family, rather than tearing each down over a difference of opinion or behavioral critique.  She lists some creative resources for promoting dinner conversation, so it goes beyond, “How was your day?”  One classic approach is having everyone give their high and low points of the day-or their roses and thorns.  The point is to connect, converse, and feed more than just the appetite.  When we do this with our families, we do so much more than eat….

Leave a comment

Filed under Health, Parenting

New Years – Conversation Starters


So the end of our calendar year is upon us again as we say goodbye to 2015 and hello to 2016. We have made another orbit around the sun and many cultures find this time of the year to be a time to reflect on the past, plan for the future and generally hope for more prosperity. It is also a great time to talk with and listen to your children about their thoughts about their year and what they hope for in the coming year.

Of course starting a meaningful conversation beyond ‘what do you want for dinner’, ‘do you have any homework…is it done?’ and/or ‘did you pick-up your toys?’ with a child or teen can seem a harrowing task.  Below you will find a few conversation starters you might try the next couple of days.  Remember you might be surprised by the response but you should try not to be negative nor judgemental. Should that surprise (which can actually be good) happen, a positive way to understand the response better is to ask ‘can you tell me more about that?’ or ‘what makes that important to you?’.  Digging a bit deeper just might bring a smile to your face and warmth to you heart.

New Years Conversation Starters

  • What word describes the last year for you?
  • What word do you think will describe the next year?
  • What is your educational goal for this year?
  • What are you most proud of in the past year?
  • If you had the power to change something in the past year what would it be? Why?
  • What was the best advice you had last year?
  • What you do in the new year that will help make the world a better place to live?
  • Did anything inspire you last year?
  • What was your favorite memory of last year?
  • What is one thing you really want to do in the coming year?

For a nice set of 220 free questions you can print on index cards visit the Balancing Beauty and Bedlam website.

Happy New Year!

Leave a comment

Filed under Parenting

New Years – Conversation Starters


So the end of our calendar year is upon us again as we say goodbye to 2014 and hello to 2015. We have made another orbit around the sun and many cultures find this time of the year to be a time to reflect on the past, plan for the future and generally hope for more prosperity. It is also a great time to talk with and listen to your children about their thoughts about their year and what they hope for in the coming year.

Of course starting a meaningful conversation beyond ‘what do you want for dinner’, ‘do you have any homework…is it done?’ and/or ‘did you pick-up your toys?’ with a child or teen can seem a harrowing task.  Below you will find a few conversation starters you might try the next couple of days.  Remember you might be surprised by the response but you should try not to be negative nor judgemental. Should that surprise (which can actually be good) happen, a positive way to understand the response better is to ask ‘can you tell me more about that?’ or ‘what makes that important to you?’.  Digging a bit deeper just might bring a smile to your face and warmth to you heart.

New Years Conversation Starters

  • What word describes the last year for you?
  • What word do you think will describe the next year?
  • What is your educational goal for this year?
  • What are you most proud of in the past year?
  • If you had the power to change something in the past year what would it be? Why?
  • What was the best advice you had last year?
  • What you do in the new year that will help make the world a better place to live?
  • Did anything inspire you last year?
  • What was your favorite memory of last year?
  • What is one thing you really want to do in the coming year?

For a nice set of 220 free questions you can print on index cards visit the Balancing Beauty and Bedlam website.

Happy New Year!

Leave a comment

Filed under Parenting

Understanding Learning Styles


Family meals should be enjoyable and respectful, not stressful! (Image Credit: Google Images)

Family meals should be enjoyable and respectful, not stressful! (Image Credit: Google Images)

If you wish to instill family cohesion, encourage siblings to get along or get your kids to talk to you more, one excellent way to do this is through family dinners. Of course it’s not always easy to coordinate busy schedules, work and after-school activities, but just two or three nights a week is all you need to change the dynamics of your family.

Why It’s A Good Idea
Studies support the theory that families who eat together enjoy a happier life and better relationships. Students who ate family meals had higher academic scores and fewer behavioral problems. 19% of teens whose families did not share meals reported feeling alienated from their families compared to the 7% of teens who did enjoy family meals.

Students who ate more meals at home suffered less from obesity and the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at the University of Columbia discovered that students who eat with their families are less likely to drink, smoke or use drugs.

Best Practices For Family Meals
Meals at home with the family can be beneficial, but you must follow some best practices in order to achieve success. Start with a ban on electronics at the table. This means the dinner hour is a tech-free one (that goes for parents too!)

Schedule your dinners and give them as much status and importance as studies, afterschool activities and work engagements. Aim for three meals a week and these can include weekend breakfasts and lunches. Every family can set aside three hours a week to share together no matter how busy you are.

Make it fun! Be inclusive so that your kids look forward to these experiences by allowing them to choose what they want to eat for family dinners and allowing them to help with cooking, music selection and table settings.

Family meals should be a fun, positive experience, so don’t use this time to criticise, fight, argue or talk about issues. If you have an issue to discuss, wait until after your meal. Mealtimes should be positive family experiences or you will create a very negative atmosphere that makes meals unbearable.

Add to the positive experience by having themed dinners, including desserts, telling jokes and sharing all your funny stories from the day at work or school.

It can be really tough to find the time to enjoy a meal together when family members have such busy schedules. However, taking just a couple of hours out of your week can really help to foster positive relationships between family members and keep communication channels open. Make meals a fun and positive event that your family looks forward to sharing. Family meals can be really great places to make memories and share stories of your life.

Note: Adapted from a post originally published 4/14/2014 on the Tutor Doctor Corp. blog

Leave a comment

Filed under Health, Parenting

Make More Quality Family Time This Summer


Sure the snow is still falling here in Western New York but it is still not too early to think about summer and family activities.  If you also read the title of this post with a strong sense of doubt, you are not alone. Just getting kids to school, extracurricular activities and social engagements, getting homework done and getting them to eat something healthy while you clean the house, do the laundry and deal with your own career may be so time consuming that you just don’t see where you can possibly find the time for more family time.

Statistics show that spending even a small amount of family time together can make a huge difference to your student’s happiness, their level of social adjustment and even their academic performance.  From Tutor Doctor’s blog on the importance of family meals:

19% of teens who do not share at least three family meals together a week report stressed relationships between family members compared to 7% who do enjoy family meals.
More meals at home result in higher performance scores and fewer behavioral problems.
Students who enjoy family meals are more informed about good eating habits and are less likely to suffer from obesity.
The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at the University of Columbia found that students who eat meals with their families are less likely to drink, smoke or use drugs.  Read the full article here.

If spending only an hour together three times a week can make such a huge difference to your student’s life and to the coherence of the family unit, then its worth the effort.

Set Goals
Every month, set a new goal for your family to spend time together. You can start small like a five minute chat to see what everyone has been up to before bed or dinner three times a week. These goals can be added to as you make family time a priority. You can expand your repertoire to include things like a family movie night, a game night or a weekend away.

Family time should mean that each member of the family gets to talk or participate equally and that their input is important. This will help you to keep in touch with your students while they learn to get along well together. Making family time a priority will help everyone to make time for it and it also sends the message that the family is more important than anything else.

Routine Inspection
The best way to make a little extra time is to make a routine that works for you. This means that you set in place routines and chores so that everyone knows what they are doing and when they are doing it. Sharing responsibilities will help you to save time. Routines also establish family time timeslots and these are sacred and should be respected by everyone.

Setting out a little time to spend together will have you all getting along better and helping each other out more.  As your family enjoys spending time together, they will find it easier to make the time available to hang out with you.

P.S. Remember that there tends to be a significant drop in a child’s Math and Language skills over the summer if there is no dedicated effort to maintain and grow what they learned over the school year.

Note: Adapted from a post originally published 3/22/2013 on the Tutor Doctor Corp. blog

Leave a comment

Filed under My Experiences, Parenting

New Years – Conversation Starters


So the end of our calendar year is upon us again. We have made another orbit around the sun and many cultures find this time of the year to be a time to reflect on the past, plan for the future and generally hope for more prosperity. It is also a great time to talk with and listen to your children about their thoughts about their year and what they hope for in the coming year.

Of course starting a meaningful conversation beyond ‘what do you want for dinner’, ‘do you have any homework…is it done?’ and/or ‘did you pick-up your toys?’ with a child or teen can seem a harrowing task. Below you will find a few conversation starters you might try the next couple of days. Remember you might be surprised by the response but you should try not to be negative nor judgemental. Should that surprise (which can actually be good) happen, a positive way to understand the response better is to ask ‘can you tell me more about that?’ or ‘what makes that important to you?’. Digging a bit deeper just might bring a smile to your face and warmth to you heart.

New Years Conversation Starters

  • What word describes the last year for you?
  • What word do you think will describe the next year?
  • What is your educational goal for this year?
  • What are you most proud of in the past year?
  • If you had the power to change something in the past year what would it be? Why?
  • What was the best advice you had last year?
  • What you do in the new year that will help make the world a better place to live?
  • Did anything inspire you last year?
  • What was your favorite memory of last year?
  • What is one thing you really want to do in the coming year?

For a nice set of 220 free questions you can print on index cards visit the Balancing Beauty and Bedlam website.

Happy New Year!

Leave a comment

Filed under Parenting

New Years – Conversation Starters


2013-CalendarSo the end of our calendar year is upon us again. We have made another orbit around the sun and many cultures find this time of the year to be a time to reflect on the past, plan for the future and generally hope for more prosperity. It is also a great time to talk with and listen to your children about their thoughts about their year and what they hope for in the coming year.

Of course starting a meaningful conversation beyond ‘what do you want for dinner’, ‘do you have any homework…is it done?’ and/or ‘did you pick-up your toys?’ with a child or teen can seem a harrowing task. Below you will find a few conversation starters you might try the next couple of days. Remember you might be surprised by the response but you should try not to be negative nor judgemental. Should that surprise (which can actually be good) happen, a positive way to understand the response better is to ask ‘can you tell me more about that?’ or ‘what makes that important to you?’. Digging a bit deeper just might bring a smile to your face and warmth to you heart.

New Years Conversation Starters

  • What word describes the last year for you?
  • What word do you think will describe the next year?
  • What is your educational goal for this year?
  • What are you most proud of in the past year?
  • If you had the power to change something in the past year what would it be? Why?
  • What was the best advice you had last year?
  • What you do in the new year that will help make the world a better place to live?
  • Did anything inspire you last year?
  • What was your favorite memory of last year?
  • What is one thing you really want to do in the coming year?

For a nice set of 220 free questions you can print on index cards visit the Balancing Beauty and Bedlam website.

Happy New Year!

Leave a comment

Filed under Parenting