Courageous Conversation: Family Dinner Night

Everyone's Child

Springfield, Mo.–It’s important for children to feel emotionally safe to express their vulnerabilities. Parents have the opportunity to create that safe place each day, at mealtime.

Bryan and Jennifer Downer have three kids and admit that family meals are to come by some days.

“Oftentimes, home is the difficult part because one kid is at this practice, another kid is at that practice, and we’re dividing and conquering and we’re meeting together in the middle,” Bryan Downer said.

Experts say having a family dinner night at least once or twice a week gives children an opportunity to express themselves. That’s why it’s also important to have no electronics or TV during that time. Parents should also be prepared to kick-start the conversation to help kids open up and not feel judged.

For children with divorced parents, creating these conversations at mealtime every week may be even more beneficial. Chris Chiarino is a licensed professional counselor. He said divorce can be processed differently, depending on the child’s age.

“I think each age posses different difficulties,” Chiarino said. “The younger you are the harder it is verbalized what your feeling, so there’s some potential build-up of emotional trauma because kids are really intuitive at a younger age, the way they develop mentally. They feel a lot stronger. Their feeling senses are a lot higher, so their intuition is greater. They experience the tension and the stress a lot more intuitively, but they don’t have the language to articulate that at very young ages, and so it can be stored as trauma.”

Co-author of the book ‘The Boy Crisis,’ Warren Farrell, said co-parenting is important for children. He outlines four steps that foster a positive, nurturing environment.

“Keep father and mother equally involved,” Warren explained. “Make sure they live close to each other. Make sure there’s no bad-mouthing. And make sure you as parents are going to relationship counseling, so you can see the best intentions of the other parent. And don’t deprive your child of the other parent.”

Families come in all different shapes and sizes, but creating a consistent atmosphere for kids to talk about their emotions, according to Farrell, send them on a path to success.

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