Thursday, May 31, 2012

Family Meal Conversations

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The food has been cooked, the table is set, your family is at the table - now what?  Well of course it is time to eat, but what is spoken during meal time is more important than you realize.  The conversations that occur during meal time can contribute to the communication and interactions within the family.  Improved relationships and bonding will increase the likelihood for family meals to occur.  Previously we discussed the benefits of consuming meals as a family: healthier weight status, better nutritional intake, and a reduction of risky behaviors.

Let's explore some guidelines to your family meal conversations.

1.  Create the perfect environment.  You want to make sure that distractions are not a barrier for communication during a family meal.  This usually means that you need to turn the television off, keep the laptops away, and put the cell phones aside.  Having background music such as classical or jazz can help create a calm and relaxed atmosphere.
2.  Keep it positive.  Family meals are an excellent time to share funny stories, accomplishments, or other recent positive happenings.  Family meals are not the appropriate time to discuss unpleasant or stressful situations.  Remember you want to create a tradition that is enjoyed by all.
3.  Allow everyone to speak. Some families may be composed of varied types of talkers - some members may be more talkative than others.  From toddlers to older adults every person present at the meal should be encouraged to speak.  Keep in mind that some members may take longer to articulate their thoughts and what they want to share.  You may consider going around the table and rotating who is speaking.
4.  Acknowledge different opinions.  Everyone present at the meal does not have to form or express the same opinion.  The meal should not be a time to display criticism or mockery among family members.  Although everyone may not agree - it is important that everyone's opinions are respected.
5.  Discuss future family plans.  Family meals are possibly the only time that a majority of the family is together.  Future family trips or upcoming events can be discussed.  
6.  Too much silence?  To alleviate dull moments or awkward silences consider creating conversation cards.  A member of the family can draw the topic card to determine the conversation discussed.  Topics on the cards should be relatively light-hearted.  Possible topics could include: "Something good that happened today", "If you could go anywhere in the world where would it be?", or "If you were an ice cream flavor which one would you be?".

Happy meal conversations!


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