Parents, how often do you have meals together as a family?
In Australia, a group of parents were asked: "If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would you choose."
In Australia, a group of parents were asked: “If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would you choose.” What unfolded later in the interview surprised everyone.
Eating Dinner Together
Even in Malaysia, we always bond over food. Often we hear people greet each other, “Hey how are you? Have you eaten?” and from there on proceed to catch-up with each other over a meal. I bet, if you asked kids when they would most likely talk to their parents, most of them would probably say over meals or dinner.
Some families are starved for connection, and dinner may be the only time of the day when they actually get together. Everyone leaves behind their work, playing games, house chores and just sits down for a decent meal. After all dinner time is a time to relax, laugh, tell stories and catch up on the day’s ups and downs as a family.
Making Effort to Connect
I’m not saying sharing a full course family meal would suddenly reform parent-child relationships. Of course, if family members sat in stony silence, or on the flip side started yelling at each other, family dinner probably won’t benefit anything but our bellies.
Parents need to make conscious effort to share positive experiences over these meals – something funny, or something that happened in the day – and it is these small moments that can slowly build a connection, resulting in strong bonds and relationships.
Hilwa Abdullah of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s School of Psychology and Human Development said it was distressing that so many parents could be seen fiddling with their mobile phones rather than bonding with their children during meals and outings.
Lee Wee Min, executive director of Focus on the Family Malaysia, an NGO actually launched the ‘No Mobile During Dinner’ campaign, together with the National Population and Family Development Board in May last year. He said,”Sometimes, people can be so short-sighted that they don’t see the long-term ramifications of their actions, like growing apart from their loved ones.” – FMT
Getting the Kids Involved
A simple thing like asking your preschooler, “What did you do today?” could result in fun answers. Wouldn’t you want to know what happened to them in their school? What they learned, what their favourite games, cartoons, or toys are? Get to know your kids, spark their interest and engage them in conversations.
Even if younger kids do not have the attention span to have longer conversations, they love to be included. It gives them a sense of belonging and trust me, those tiny ears are listening to every word.
Older kids will probably be able to discuss more complex issues, or maybe share their own difficulties and experience. Sharing your own experiences, whether challenging or embarrassing, gives your children something to relate to, to learn from. By sharing openly and honestly, this could encourage your kids to open up and share their own experiences as well. The key is to keep communications open both ways. After all, the fundamentals of a strong and healthy relationship is continued trust, communication, warmth and support.