The other day a home childcare provider, after calling Family Resources to see if our Children’s Room was available, showed up with four young children from 20 months to five years old and their yummy lunch in hand.
I stopped in to say hi and was charmed by the five of them, the four children and their caregiver sitting together at the little table delighting in their lunch, their company and the coziness of sharing food and conversation together.
I recall speaking to a parent who was struggling with getting her two children, two- and four-years-old to ever sit down and eat a meal. Mom said they would grab a piece of food and wander through the house eating, but refused to have a seat, even at the small table and chairs this mother had especially purchased hoping it would appeal to the children.
I remember asking this parent if she sat and ate with the children, to which she seemed surprised at the question and answered” no, never”. She was too busy chasing them around, trying to get them to sit and eat. I encouraged her to change this and begin to sit down and eat together.
She did. The children noticed. First one sat down, then both. They chatted and definitely enjoyed this new interaction.
While talking at a childcare center, it was the same question. Lunch time at the table was problematic, constant conflicts and upsets among the children. I again asked the question, “Is an adult sitting and eating lunch also with the children?” They looked at me like I was crazy. ” No”, they told me, all staff was needed in “putting out the fires” at the table.
Try it I encouraged. Have at least one of the teachers sit with the children. Not just sit, but sit and eat lunch with them. See if it makes a difference.
I spoke a few weeks later to one of the teachers. They’d begun rotating adults “dining” with the children. Conflicts were definitely down, the children were excited, asking early when they arrived in the morning “are you going to eat with us today?”
This charm of “breaking bread” together extends throughout all ages. “”Let’s do lunch” we’ve all said to our close friends. And when the opportunity presents itself, we’ve felt engaged, connected and refueled.
As parents, we know that spending one-on-one time with our children is essential. And as parents, we’ve often sighed and said, “when?”
Well, eating together is an example of an opportunity to grab, take advantage of and enjoy. If we make use of these routine things in our children’s day, connecting through them versus just getting the job done, we will notice our days flowing more smoothly and behavior increasingly more cooperative.
Think through your day. Helping a child get dressed, putting on shoes, brushing teeth, driving in the car, straightening up the house, shopping at the grocery store and yes, definitely, having meals are all ways to connect.
Intentionally connecting with your child during these ordinary moments, the moments you have to do anyway, may bring extraordinary results. By connecting, I mean, participating along with your children. Being present with them in the moment.
Choose one of these moments to focus on.