I am a real advocate of families sitting down and eating together as it creates a bond, a connection and makes life fun. Kids can chat about their day, their worries or just spend time with you, and you can share your life with them in a easy and natural way simply through sitting down to a meal together regularly.
It builds memories that last a lifetime.
It’s also a place to iron out differences, talk about worries and be involved in your child’s life.
Also teenagers who eat with their parents are up to 35% less likely to have eating disorders – read more here
I have recently been working with a local group of parents on their philosophy to life and their general family ethos.
I asked them to think about things that were important to them in life like their values, their beliefs and their principles because parents who know what they feel strongly about pass these values easily and clearly on to their children and family life becomes much easier.
It’s not something many parents do naturally but I feel it really helps you to gain clarity, direction and confidence in planning the destination of your parenting as it helps you to stay focused on the bigger picture to your job as a parent and keeps you out of what I call the “socks and pants” of life – the humdrum and the trivial!
Grab a piece of paper and a coffee and write down what you stand for, what’s important to you and what principles you believe are important in life and what words really sum up Life to you.
Get really clear about them. You may be really surprised.
Now ask yourself:
• What are my guiding principles to life – what things are important to me like honesty, integrity, determination, kindness, the ability to finish a task, being considerate of others, working hard, doing well at school, telling the truth, keeping my body fit and healthy?
Jot them down on a piece of paper so you get really clear on them as these are your Parenting Values
Now give each of these values a score of 1-10 – 10 being your most important and 1 the least of your values and think about how you are honouring these values in your life right now.
Just take a few moments to think how you pass on your values – how do you pass them on in your words, in your actions or in the way you talk to your kids? Do you talk about being patient and tolerant but scream at the driver who cuts you up at the roundabout?
What can you do differently or remember to say to yourself to remind yourself that you are always a role model?
From gaining clarity on the destination to your parenting it is a natural step in thinking about how you pass these principles on to your kids. And when I work with parents I often encourage them to have regular family chats that have a purpose, because family chats or “family meetings” are a great way to sort out the usual ups and downs of family life as they help you all go in the same direction together and help get things out in the open.
Getting your kids involved too is a great opportunity to make them feel part of the decision making process at home as having fun creating solutions to family niggles provides a real incentive for everyone to co-operate.
If you’re interested in trying this “family chat time” idea here are some ways to organise yourselves:
Family Talk Time Tips
1. Develop a set of simple “Family Chat Time Rules” at your first meeting and be sure to write them down so everyone is clear about what to expect – things like not shouting at each other or taking turns to listen.
2. Have the family chat time meeting at the same time and place each week or month as this builds routine and expectations and nips niggles in the bud before they build up and get out of proportion.
3. Make sure that all your family members are present and have a chance to be heard so no one feels left out.
4. It’s often a good idea to put all decisions from the meeting in writing and have everyone sign the sheet when the meeting ends to show their commitment to what’s been talked about and agreed – get one of the kids to design it on the computer!
5. Keep the meeting positive and have rules against disrespectful behaviours such as interrupting, insulting, or yelling or laughing at other people’s suggestions. Teach the energy of respect.
6. Avoid distractions – so turn off the TV and radio, take the phone off the hook etc. so you can relax and enjoy chatting together.
Remember the whole point of the chat or family meeting has a purpose which is to spend constructive, quality time discussing the concerns and issues which need to be addressed. So think of it like a business meeting but with a far more relaxed atmosphere – and plan an agenda.
A very simple agenda or plan helps you to discuss progress, problems, and changes over the week as it keeps you focused and not hijacked by what crops up.
It helps you to discuss your family niggles or issues openly and helps you to decide on all the possible solutions and it encourages each family member to feel part of the family and able to contribute in some way. It also allows you to chat about the roles and expectations of each member of the family and how you all fit together as a team.
It’s also a place to sort out your plans and activities for the coming week so no one feels left out or doesn’t know what everyone else is up to and it’s a great place to look at how the jobs in the house are getting done and who does what – and to make sure everyone is pulling their weight. It’s also a good place to discuss your family rules and the consequences for breaking them, and finally it’s a good place to relax, catch up and have fun together so set aside time just for that or you may even like to play a game together.
If you’re not sure about what to talk about here are some suggestions for topics that are really fascinating to explore with your whole family either once week, once a month or now and again – whatever suits the rhythm and style of your family.
• What is it that makes you special?
Get everyone around the table to think of one or two things that are special about each family member and to tell them out loud and just enjoy watching everyone’s face light up.
• What is it about yourself that you are most proud of this week or this month?
We don’t often pat ourselves on the back so this is a wonderful opportunity to do this amongst people who love you and support you.
• What special talents or abilities do you have?
This is also a safe place to celebrate things each person is good at and to help them to see what talents and abilities they have from being kind, to playing the piano.
• Tell each family member what you appreciate most about them.
This family chat is wonderful for building true self esteem amongst the whole family and keeps everyone motivated and positive throughout the week or month and helps everyone to celebrate their strengths and their uniqueness.
Managing your anger or frustration at home
This issue is a very common one for most families so this is a good place to start.
• What do you do when you feel annoyed or angry with someone in the family – what could you do instead?
Give examples of a couple of techniques that work for you – counting to 10, pressing an imaginary pause button, leaving the room to cool off for a moment, hitting some golf balls in the garden, punching a pillow !
• Talk about times that you could use these techniques to help you control your temper and frustration healthily.
• Talk about times when you did use some of these techniques to calm down and how it went and what was good about using them.
• Talk about some new ways you could all try this week to make a change.
Focus for the week
Sit down with your family this week around the kitchen table and have a chat about some of the ideas for setting up house rules and positive ways to talk together about niggles, worries or problems.
Explain that you’d like to help the atmosphere in the house to improve and run more smoothly and you’d like their input and suggestions.
Ask each member of your family to think of at least one house rule that would make life at home easier and to write it down. Then put them all up somewhere where everyone can see them clearly and easily – maybe one of your children would like to design something on the computer to make the rules look interesting and colourful.
Then arrange another chat the following week at the same time to see how it’s all going. (Regular times are always a good idea so you don’t forget to do it!)
Families who value spending time with their children talking and listening and doing things together build up trust, respect and an easy way to pass on their values which strikes me as a simple but really important way to help you build up and bond your family together.
So relax, turn off the TV and plan a simple but enjoyable meal and have fun connecting, bonding and chatting and remember that you are building memories of childhood …….one meal at a time !
Sue Atkins is an International Parenting Expert, Speaker, Broadcaster & Amazon bestselling Author of “Raising Happy Children for Dummies” one in the famous black and yellow series & the highly acclaimed Parenting Made Easy CDs. She has recently launched the first in her Parenting Made Easy apps for iPhones and iPads available on itunes here http://itunes.apple.com/app/sue-atkins-parenting-made/id439743586?mt=8
She is currently writing a series of books called Parenting Made Easy for Random House that will be available from April 2012. She regularly appears on BBC Breakfast and BBC Radio 2’s The Jeremy Vine Show and has a regular phone in on BBC Radio Surrey & Sussex.
Her parenting articles, blogs, podcasts and videos are published all over the world. To download her free ebook called, “How To Give Your Kids the Gift of Self –Esteem” go to www.TheSueAtkins.com