As we are enjoying meeting up with our friends and relatives down here in New Zealand and Australia, food seems to be a very common centerpiece for our conversation. It got me thinking about the value of table talk. When else is there time to just sit and talk face to face about your day, to share exciting news, give or receive a word of encouragement or enjoy just good old companionship? Doesn't it feel great to be asked about your current project, your plans for the holidays/vacation, your job, the movie you just saw, your night out or the cat? Someone cares!
Statistics have shown that the habit of eating meals at the table even, if only several nights a week, makes a huge positive difference to teen behavior. Why is that? I think it is because social conversation around a meal allows kids to share their opinions, talk about their successes and listen to others. They feel valued. They feel their contribution to the family is special. These times together also allow parents to quietly observe the mood of their children, and perhaps, through quiet individual discussion later, head off potential issues.
Table talk should be fun and never used as an opportunity for parents to reel off all the negative things their kids have done during the day. That is not fair because it is an embarrassment to the individual concerned and makes the rest of the family feel very uncomfortable. Reprimands should be kept to a 'one-on-one' session with the child concerned where the situation can be properly discussed. Don't be a 'Debbie downer' when it comes to mealtimes with the family. This is a valuable time, without the TV on, to enjoy your family along with the great meal that has been prepared.
By Sally Burgess