We live in an age of technology where face to face conversations are lessened and where children send their parents text messages from their bedrooms rather than walk to the loungeroom to speak in person. The same can be seen here before school where girls text each other across the plaza and I have no doubt the same would happen at lunchtime if mobile phones weren't banned during the school day. Unfortunately, as a society, we are losing the human connections (belonging, humility, forgiveness, humour, empathy, trust, respect and understanding) that comes from engaging personally with others. This new way of communicating is also weakening family connection and engagement. “Family" is being lost to younger generations through a lack of personal communication and face to face quality time.
Eating together is perfect, quality time. It should be a restful space in the day where you feed your body and your emotions by sharing and communicating. Clinical psychologist and author Renee Mill identifies the benefits of eating together as a family as outlined below.
1. When Mum and Dad share in a non-burdensome way, children learn empathy and realise that Mum and Dad have feelings, too. This goes a long way to reducing behaviour difficulties.
2. It reinforces the idea we are a family and do things together. We do not lead separate lives.
3. It is an opportunity to encourage healthy eating just by providing healthy food. Young kids can be encouraged to sit and eat because they love Mum and Dad's attention.
4. All technology should be off so there is a twenty-minute window of quiet and focusing on each other.
5. You can teach mindfulness by teaching mindful eating, which lowers anxiety.
6. Feeling part of a family boosts self-esteem and feelings of belonging as opposed to feelings of alienation (Mill, 2018).
Our homes today are designed with dining and living spaces as one area which promotes a connection of areas but inhibits our ability to separate technology and dinner. As a family it is important to turn off the TV and devices in order to come together and learn more about what is happening in the lives of each other rather than in the lives of the fictional characters to whom we become attached.
Listening to each other supports understanding, respect and empathy. It shows younger family members that their parents really want to know what is happening in their lives (and vice versa). Parents and children have an opportunity to grow closer together through appreciating the value each has to offer and it provides a platform for trust to grow. Trust that someone really cares and trust that they can be listened to when a supportive hand is needed most.
During the upcoming holidays try to find a 'family day' (or a few) to sit, eat dinner together and connect as a family. Let your daughter cook (or help to cook) dinner to ease the pressure when you arrive home. Encourage her independence and reap the benefits of this simple activity and the wonderful sharing that follows.