‘Tis the season for big family meals, how is mealtime at your house?
Mealtime with young children can be stressful. Picky eating and active kids can make mealtimes as a whole family difficult.
But figuring out ways to have a peaceful family dinner a few times a week is worth it…
Research shows that eating together as a family has its benefits. Kids and teens who share family dinners 3 or more times per week:
✓ Are less likely to be overweight
✓ Are more likely to eat healthy foods
✓ Perform better academically
✓ Are less likely to engage in risky behaviors
✓ Have better relationships with their parents
And… "More frequent family dinners are related to fewer emotional and behavioral problems, greater emotional well-being, more trusting and helpful behaviors towards others and higher life satisfaction, "Journal of Adolescent Health" April 2012
The attached article from Zero to Three, “Healthy From the Start,” shares great tips for making mealtimes with young children more enjoyable.
The Pyramid Model uses visual cues to help children understand what is expected of them. Showing a child a picture of what is expected helps them learn the rules and regulate their own behavior to be successful. After all, young children are still learning the language, a picture helps them understand the words better! The visual cue, or “rule card” also helps everyone use the same words to describe what they want the child to do. Stating expectations positively by telling children WHAT TO DO instead of WHAT NOT TO DO is the most productive way to give directions.
Attached are rule cards your family can use for your mealtimes. Print them out and choose a few to use as rules for your family meals. Consider these guidelines when choosing your family’s rules:
- 3 or fewer rules are best for young children
- Introduce the rules one at a time
- Model the expected behavior
- Point out positive behavior, give specific praise when children are doing what you asked them to do (“I like how you are keeping your pockets on your chair, it’s so nice to eat with you when you are sitting nicely.”
- Review the rules before you sit down to eat each time
- Keep the rule cards on the table so everyone can see them. Point to rule cards as needed to redirect your child’s behavior without verbal attention.
BONUS STRATEGY: See the attached social story about eating at the table, feel free to edit it to fit your family’s needs. Print it and read it with your child before each meal!
And remember, it’s not going to be perfect the first time, but continuing to work on having dinner as a family is worth it, because…