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Why family meals are so important
Thursday, 07 September 2017 00:00

The importance of family  meals

Why Family Meals Are So Important

"What did you do in school today?" "Who did you play with at recess?" "Did you see that article in the newspaper?" Eating together as a family is one of those things that doesn't seem like such a big deal. But it can make a big difference for your kids in terms of self-image, sense of security, self-esteem and overall sense of happiness. "Regular family meals are probably the best psychological 'daily vitamin' parents can give their children," says Carleton Kendrick, a family therapist in Millis, Mass., and author of "Take Out Your Nose Ring, Honey, We're Going to Grandma's." "They're far more powerful in the long and short term than you might think they are."

That's because family meals make kids feel good, especially when you focus on keeping the conversation positive. "Dinner can be a wonderful time to hear about everyone's day or anything else your kids want to talk about that you don't usually take the time to discuss," says Vicki Panaccione, Ph.D., founder of the Better Parenting Institute in Melbourne, Fla. It also gives kids the chance to be themselves and share their opinions within the safe confines of home, without risking the rejection of their peers. And even toddlers can begin to feel like a valued contributing member of their family when they scoot their chair up to the dinner table and start to chime in. While the peas are being passed, the open forum gives your kids the opportunity to learn about your family's history and your past.

It's no wonder that family meals are associated with lower teenage pregnancy rates, higher grade point averages, fewer eating disorders in teens and lower risk of depression. Moreover, the psychological benefits go both ways. A recent telephone survey of 2,008 Americans sponsored by Barilla found that adults who eat with their kids regularly with few distractions (no TV or phone) report higher overall life satisfaction. "Family meals pay off for adults and children," says William J. Doherty, Ph.D., professor of family social science at the University of Minnesota in St. Paul, who helped Barilla analyze the survey results. It's a ritual none of us really ever outgrow. The key is to start the meal tradition when your kids are young, then keep it up. "When you get your kids into the habit of family dinners, they'll keep doing it when they get older and become more independent," Doherty says. In other words, when they morph into eye-rolling teenagers.

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How to help your child make friends at school
Wednesday, 25 January 2017 00:00

My child has no friends at school.


It’s a heartbreaker. Your child comes home from school one day and says he doesn’t have any friends and that nobody likes him - the dreaded words no parent wants to hear. You’ve been there; you know how cruel it can be on the playground and how quickly friendships seem to come and go throughout life. You want to wrap up your little guy and protect him from the world and most of all, you want to ensure that he has plenty of friends.

As much as you’d like to step in, you simply can’t make friends for him. You can, however, give him the tools he needs to be social and to be a good friend. Every child is born with an innate need to attach or be in a relationship, but how he goes about forming those relationships depends largely on his temperament. Children can start to develop real friendships around the age of four or five. When everything goes smoothly, it can be exhilarating and great. But when you see your child hitting some bumps in the road to having his own “B.F.F.,” you can help.

According to Denise Salin, a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Parent Educator, you don’t want to push. “Some children, especially younger elementary school age ones, need help developing social skills such as empathy, problem-solving, negotiating, cooperation and communication skills” before they are comfortable making friends. “If an elementary aged child does not seem to want to make friends, it’s important to try and get an understanding of what may be going on.”

To support the development of friendships in your child’s life, try some of these techniques:

Offer a variety of opportunities for play and socialising. Host friends over for play dates or lunch. See if you can participate in a carpool and sign-up your child for group activities such as art, drama or dance. Exposing him to different areas of play will help him learn to socialise. “Giving children lots of unstructured time to play is important because they learn the social skills they need so they can keep playing and have fun,” says Salin. Additionally, you can include your child when talking to people out of his normal range of peers. Take him to visit a neighbour, or bring him along to the dry cleaner. The more he is exposed to interacting with all kinds of people, the more he will learn to do the same.

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