This was what I grew up with at home. Sadly, I realised that dinner with my own kids is not a daily affair. We try our best but with their busy schedules and ours, sitting down every day for a leisurely dinner to catch up is a rare luxury.
I discovered from my friends that having family dinner is a challenge especially with teenagers. The already less-than chatty teens seem to have an endless amount of schoolwork to catch up on, on top of tuition, music lessons and enrichment classes. Add these to their need for a more active social life – on and off line, and family time certainly suffers! My son will be going to secondary school soon and the thought of not having our daily chats does not feel good.
How It Was Back Then
Winding down at the end of the day together as a family was important for my sisters and I growing up. We spoke about school and our friends while my parents shared about their work day.
Occasionally, dinner time could get a little tense when someone did something wrong. Those would become stern talking-to sessions by our papa (this was back in the day when disciplining over a meal was not frowned upon yet) but we were rarely disciplined and had a solid relationship with our parents where I saw them as trustworthy confidantes. This daily debriefing was a safe place for us to speak our minds.
How It Is Now
With my boys, I realise we may not always get relaxing dinners on school nights but our wind down and “debriefing” sessions would come instead during our nightly bedtime chats. I get to hear about their day as they get ready for sleep with the lights out. Try this if you don’t already do it. Talking in the dark feels a lot more comforting and private, and we tend to let our guard down. It also helps that it is bedtime, and I make a conscious effort to get them more relaxed as they drift off to sleep, and disciplining takes a back seat. During times when I feel the need or urge to correct them, I am more empathetic in the way I broach the issue, and my tone is far calmer and a lot more pleasant than I normally am during the day with countless things to cross off my to-do list.
I hope we will continue to have these bedtime chats even when my boys become teenagers in the not-too-distant future. I have to figure out how I can give them the privacy they will increasingly want more of, as teens, while having our fair share of openness between us. It is a delicate balance. As for family dinners, if weekdays are a challenge, we have to make the commitment to keep the tradition of family meals on weekends a must-have. This way, we have an established channel of communication that we can tap on, if and when the daily talk becomes a little muted as the teens get busy with their lives and turn to their friends more than their mummy for comfort and advice.