By Sandy Hooda 

In this frenetic world, one in which there is little or no downtime, dinner time holds a special place. It’s a time when we can most easily come together as a family. Dinner is one time of the day when everyone is free from their daily activities and is generally at home.

Parents can leverage this precious time to connect and bond with their children in meaningful ways. Remember our children are getting older, as time goes by they will want to be with their friends and eventually go away to college and to their lives beyond. 

Dinner is also the one time of the day we can connect with our children irrespective of their age. If we can build a culture (and convention) when children are young it’s more likely it will continue when they are older. There is no better way to bond, and imbibe values and knowledge than these moments. For the conversations to be interesting (and meaningful) they need to be carefully planned. Here are some tips.

Don’t ask open-ended questions

Don’t ask your children ‘how was school?’ or ‘how was your day?’ Children don’t like intrusive questions or questions where they need to jog their (already exhausted from school brains).

Start by sharing interesting things about yourself

Begin the conversation by sharing something interesting (or humorous) that happened with you during the day. It can be an anecdote or event from the day that you think will make the child smile or engaged.

Talk about something the child will be interested in

It could be a cricket game, a singer or a movie the child likes and a meaningful conversation can be constructed .Anything you feel the child will be interested in is a good hook. Parents can weave in values and knowledge through these important ‘hooks’.

The child will usually share next

When we share something fun or interesting about ourselves, invariably the child will follow suit by sharing something interesting about herself. In time, the culture of a healthy two way conversation will get formed.

Talk about world events

Once we know the hooks into the child’s interests and imagination we can talk about world events and weave in good values and knowledge through them.

Books and movies

Children have an active ‘mirror neuron’. They will generally emulate what we do. If we read interesting books and share fun nuggets from our own books with them, they are more likely to do the same with us. For those parents who don’t find books interesting, there are so many wonderful and meaningful movies and documentaries that we can have wonderful conversations on.

Doesn’t have to be only at dinner

Some families like downtime during dinner. They feel rested if they are watching TV or listening to music. This is absolutely fine. We can go for a walk, a bicycle ride or a run with our children and use this time for triggering meaningful conversations. During weekends we can take the child out for a meal, which could be a great captive time to have a meaningful conversation. 

In modern times when screen time has taken over our lives, it is all the most important to make an effort to spend one on one time with the child. These precious moments won’t return and we must make the most of them. Some of the best schools in Gurgaon have open libraries that allow both parents and children to borrow books. These conversations are great for children of any age, and should ideally begin at the nursery school or kindergarten level. They should continue through primary school and all the way to senior school. Once we build this wonderful culture this is likely to continue for the rest of our lives and reap rich dividends for the entire family. After all, nothing like strong and timeless bonds.

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