According to experts, family meals have great benefits. Research suggests that having family meals can help bolster the social skills of children and can also improve their eating habits. A report published in the journal Pediatrics noted that regular family meals can help ensure that children eat more vegetables and fruits and is linked to a decreased risk of developing eating disorders, especially in girls.
It is best to engage with your children while eating. Here are some of the questions that you should be asking during your family mealtime.
What is something interesting you did today?
While the questions that you ask depend on your child's age, this can be a great place to start. According to Dr. Gail Saltz, a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at the Weill Cornell Medical College, sharing what your child's day was like and what is important to them helps to grow your relationship. In return, you should tell them what you valued in your day as well.
What's on your mind?
It is important that you make it clear to your children that they can talk about anything and you will listen. Experts say that it is important that children feel understood, and that they can openly share whatever may be on their minds.
Who did you sit with at lunch today?
According to Susan Bartell, a child psychologist, the reason that you need to ask specific questions is because otherwise, you will get one-word answers that won't let you know how your child is doing. Children and teenagers do not want to make the effort to share the details of school, especially when some of the details may be upsetting, unpleasant or embarrassing.
Can I share about what happened to me today?
Bartell said that children are developmentally self-centered. They learn how to care about others at home, but only if they are shown how to care about others. It is up to you as a parent to show your children that it is important that they care about the rest of the world too. This not only teaches them how to think beyond themselves, it also helps them feel good that you want them as an audience.
What are all the things you're grateful for today?
According to Nancy Buck, a developmental psychologist, it is best to use mealtime as an opportunity to talk about ideas and values or principles that you believe are important to teach and instill in your children.
Do you feel full?
According to Jill Castle, a registered dietitian and childhood nutrition expert, talking about hunger, satisfaction, and fullness can help children become aware of their appetites.
What made you laugh recently?
Aside from math or language development, children must learn how to understand and to manage their emotions, and they can do so through interactions with teachers, parents and other adults as well as their peers.
Do you have any questions about what's going on in the news?
Children hear stuff and they do not always understand what it's about or how it makes sense in their world. It is important to ask your child what's on their radar and discussing their views. It is useful to correct wrong perceptions, quell fears and be aware of their world.
What do you want to do tomorrow?
You can take time to involve your child in making plans for the family. By doing this, you can use your family mealtime as a chance to talk about what he or she is looking forward to doing and you can reflect on what has happened in your child's life.
How are your friends or classmates doing?
Talking about the social environment and understanding and helping your children with potential social pitfalls is very important. This is where you may hear about fights, bullying issues, friend groups, and negotiating friendships. It is important that you provide feedback and even role play about tricky situations as it can help your child navigate the waters.
What did you talk about in class?
You can use open-ended questions that require your child to give multi-sentence answers. The topic is not as important as building connection and trust. It is important to know about your child's day as this provides insight into their mood, social and school life.
What was your biggest success of the day?
Talking about high points, as well as low points, of their day is a good way to gain insight into your child's life. You can talk about what happened to you too. By interjecting a slice of your life, this can put you and your child on even ground.
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