Mealtimes are a great opportunity to foster discussion and share experiences that bring us closer together. Making Meals Meaningful, a partnership between UNICEF Canada, Maple Leaf Foods and Dr. Karyn Gordon, aims to help Canadian families connect around the dinner table.
The program features themed conversation starter cards that parents can use as a guide to have engaging discussions with their children about important and sometimes hard-to-discuss topics including acceptance, compassion, empathy, generosity and selflessness.
Research tells us that one of the best ways to develop a thriving parent-child relationship is to have regular mealtimes together. That’s why Maple Leaf Foods, UNICEF and Dr. Karyn Gordon, have collaborated to come up with a complimentary deck of conversation cards. They provide you with over 50 questions you can ask your children around the table to facilitate meaningful conversation. Parents want their children to be more aware, appreciative and kind to others. Sitting down as a family over dinner is a great place to teach these important values.
Making Meals Meaningful cards are complimentary and available through the UNICEF Canada website www.unicef.ca until the end of December. The cards are divided into two sets: one for children aged five to nine and one for teens aged 10 to 16. What makes the questions on these cards unique is that they were all written by kids and teens, thanks to several schools who partnered with us on this initiative. If you haven’t already done so, please go to unicef.ca/makingmealmeaningful to sign up for one or both decks of cards – one for parents of kids aged 5-9 and the other for kids aged 10-16.
Tips on how to use the cards from Dr Karyn Gordon
Three key tips on how to use the cards:
1. Create the mood & turn off distractions
Be sure to have your meal ready and table set so that you are not getting up and down from the table.
Turn off all distractions including cell phones and televisions.
2. Explain Making Meals Meaningful cards
Explain to your kids that you heard about Making Meals Meaningful and thought it would be a great way to hear about their ideas and thoughts. The purpose of the cards is to encourage two-way discussion and share stories.
3. Ask your child to facilitate the conversation
The child facilitating the conversation has three responsibilities:
(1) Choosing the questions: usually one to two questions per meal
(2) Asking each person around the table their thoughts on the question the goal is to get everyone involved!
(3) Reminding the table of Rule #1: no one interrupts!
Remember: As the parent, the more vulnerable and transparent you are with your answers, the more your kids will follow your lead and do likewise so get ready to share!
More Tips From Dr. Karyn:
1. Accept Where Your Kids Are At
While some parents will find that their kids are eager to share their thoughts (usually younger children), others may find that their kids are disengaged or think the cards are silly or awkward. I encourage you to accept where your kids are at. Allow them to listen as the rest of the family shares their ideas, and hopefully they will join in the conversation when they are ready
2. Try To Be Relaxed
Having done research with 1,500 students, I have learned that the number one thing that encourages kids and teens to talk to their parents, is that their parents are relaxed. So, when you are sitting down for your meal, take a big deep breath, be present, relax, and above all, enjoy the moment!
3. Encourage Your Kids To Brainstorm Their Own Questions
Encourage your kids to come up with their own list of questions around these topics. Encourage the spirit of learning from each other!
Remember to give the child the opportunity to answer, sometimes some answers take a bit of thought. Be patient and enjoy learning new things about your child and how they may see the world.
If you find that meal times are hectic with driving to one event or another; make one night a week a mandatory sit down and regroup night. That is what we do, we found one night that we can all work around and we have the time to sit down and enjoy dinner without having to rush off to anything else except enjoying dinner together.
Don’t forget to join us for the Making Meals Meaningful Facebook Chat on December 5th from 9-10pm
*Disclosure – I received compensation as a thank you from Maple Leaf Foods. The opinions on this blog are my own.