Family mealtimes matter. I have long been an advocate of regularly eating meals together as a family as a means of encouraging the positive eating habits of young children, and as the most effective way for them to learn socially acceptable behaviour and manners. What I had not previously thought about was the mental health benefits and I was interested to read the thoughts of parenting educator, Michael Grose, regarding this;
“The biggest single preventative factor for anxiety and depressive illnesses in young people is being in a family that has 5-6 shared meals together with the television and other communication devices off.” You can read more here.
Michael goes on to say that while mental health professionals cannot be sure why this is so, that the most obvious reasoning relates to family members taking regular time to eat and talk together which allows parents to keep tabs on how their children are doing and children to grow up with the knowledge that they can talk to their family members about problems and concerns. Both of which are important at any age but particularly as children grow beyond the early childhood years.
Engaging your kids in conversation around the dinner table is invaluable. For them, and for you as the parent.
In talking with friends, I know that not all children are open and forthcoming when it comes to sharing information, especially when asked about their day at school.
While this can be partly attributed to personality but I do believe including regular time to sit down and talk together in your family’s routine can also make a big difference.
While dinnertime works best for us it’s not right for everyone. If you’re struggling to get everyone to the dinner table at the same time each night, you could try for another meal in the day, or one meal a week where everyone is expected to sit down together, or even some special quiet time just before bed, depending upon the age of your children and your family commitments.
Related: Play this super fun Would You Rather: A Fun, Family Conversation Game.
And if you have trouble getting the conversation flowing, this printable set of conversation question cards could be just what you need!
Each card includes one question, with topics related to individual choices and preferences, as well as questions about friends, family, school. There are 30 questions in total and while some cards may be best suited to older children (mid to late primary/elementary), many of the questions can be answered by preschoolers and those in the early grades (and the printable also includes one blank page of cards so that you can add further questions all of your own).
Choosing one card each time you slow down to talk together can be a great strategy for getting the conversation started and I see family dinner times in the years ahead full of laughter and good natured debate as our children grow and develop opinions and ideals all of their very own.
Printing Your Family Conversation Cards
Click here to download. This will open a 2 page PDF document. Download or save the PDF to your own computer. Open the PDF and print the page you require. When printing, select “Fit to printable area” (or similar) to ensure the page fits with your printer type and local paper size (these have been created at A4 size).
Having trouble accessing or downloading the file? Please try a different internet browser.
Please note: All Childhood 101 printables are for personal use only, you may not use any part of this content for commercial purposes-that includes selling the document, giving it away to promote your business or website, or printing the file to sell. You may not share, loan or redistribute these documents. Teachers may use multiple copies for students in their own classroom.
If you’re looking for even more fun family conversation starters, check out these Tell a Story Family Mealtime Converation Starters.
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