Saturday, March 12, 2011

Mastering Meal Time Madness!

Many parents are quick to report that meal times are some of the most stressful moments of their days. Bickering, complaining, burnt food, scheduling conflicts, tantrums and host of other potential problems can stand in the way of a relaxing meal with family. Here are some steps Kathryn Kvols, author of Redirecting Children's Behavior, suggests for taking the madness out of your family meals:

1. Ask yourself, "What do I want meals to sound like, feel like and look like? Mealtimes should be a time for:
  • Talking about their day and yours.
  • Finding ways to work through problems.
  • Letting children know you are available.
  • A chance to reconnect.
  • Opportunities for families to learn about and experience the value of teamwork.
  • Nourishment, not only from food, but also emotionally and spiritually.
2. Create a plan. It may not be feasible to have dinner together every night. You could do breakfast together on certain days and dinner on other days. Have a family meeting to determine meal plans, make a list of mealtime chores and who will do them.

Letting children be involved in the meal planning and cooking can help prepare them to make good decisions on their own and lead to a lifetime of healthier choices and self confidence.

3. Set clear boundaries around issues that are important to you. For example, the use of technological gadgets might be where you draw the line. This means putting limits on answering phone calls, playing computer games, listening to music and watching t.v.

Also set boundaries about bickering and other non-supportive bantering. Be prepared for your family to resist your changes. Often they will attempt emotional black mail to get you to go back to your old ways.

But what about my teenager? I can't even get her to come to the table!

Teens turning up their noses at the prospect of a family meal is not surprising because they're trying to establish their independence. Yet studies find that teens still want their parent's counsel. Consider trying these strategies to entice them to the family table:

  • Allow your teen to invite a friend to dinner.
  • Involve your teen in meal planning and preparation.
  • Keep mealtime calm and congenial. Avoid lecturing , arguing or prying.
  • Sometimes candlelight offers a safer atmosphere to share feelings.
  • Excuse younger siblings from the table when they are done eating if they are being annoying, so that you can have some alone time with your teen.
Take time for family meals together. It could mean  you simply order a pizza and eat together. The food isn't as important as the sense of camaraderie and feelings of support that your family will take with them throughout their lives.

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