Happy Valentine’s Day Month!
Perhaps the Beatles were correct when they crooned “All you need is Love.”
But as everyone knows, love’s not always what you get.
There are a whole slew of emotions we humans contend with: anger, joy, sadness, fear, disappointment, frustration. The list goes on. And for kids, recognizing and responding to these emotions in themselves and in others can often be challenging.
But the good news is this: the table—whether at breakfast, lunch or dinner—can be a wonderful venue for helping kids build their empathy and emotional muscles. Try these tips to enjoy more love and harmony with your family at the table and beyond!
How can you feel the love if there’s a whole lotta tension going on? Unfortunately, it’s easy to feel tense around a meal—particularly at the dinner hour. Both parents and kids may be tired; the cook, harried. At your next meal, try this: Focus on “The Good Enough Dinner.” Let go of the need for manners, eating everything on one’s plate, or staying seated for a long time. And of course avoid talking about topics that may result in a fight. Read all our tips for reducing tension here.
As Dr. Anne Fishel writes in her book Home for Dinner, “empathy is hardwired into all forms of love and is, quite simply, the ability to ‘get’ what someone else is saying and to feel that ‘how you feel matters to me.’” Modeling empathy at the table can be as simple as making sure that everyone gets a chance to talk, and feels that his words and experience matter. Read more
Ick –Sounds a little mushy, huh? Like that old 1970’s song: whoa, whoa feelings…But there are ways to help your children discuss feelings that won’t necessarily make them squirm and roll their eyes. One big one is storytelling (which is also great for building resilience!). Here’s how: When you share a story about your day or your life, try to include the way you felt at different points along the way. Not only will you be describing feelings (a foundational skill in developing empathy), but you’re also making a more interesting story! Encourage your kids to share stories—but try to avoid asking too many direct questions about feelings. Oftentimes, suggesting a feeling, such as “You sound happy about playing tag at gym today,” goes down smoother.
Getting back to the Beatles and All Your Need is Love: Even if you don’t have dinner together regularly, make a commitment to have a special Valentine’s Meal together this month. Breakfast or dinner, doesn’t matter. Just make it all about hearts and love and fun. Need some ideas? Have family members write thoughtful sayings on colorful paper hearts and decorate the table with them. Make a meal only of red foods! Pull out all the stops with candles and a playlist of everyone’s favorite love songs (or the worst love songs ever written). Engage everyone in planning and helping out—and definitely have some dessert!
First person chooses a word. Each person at the table then has to come up with a song that has the word in the lyrics—and sing it (at least a verse of it). So for example, using the word “love,” one person could sing part of “Love Stinks…yeah yeah” or “Crazy Love” or “Love is all you Need.” After everyone’s done, the next person chooses a new word and the hits keep on coming!
Our conversation starters this month are all about romantic love and marriage.
If you could marry anyone in the world, who would you marry and why?
Do you know what it means to have a crush on someone? Have you ever had a crush on anyone? Has anyone ever had one on you?
Do animals show each other love? If yes, how?
Do you know any love stories from our family? Tell one (or make one up!)
Do you like Valentine’s Day? Why or why not?
How does someone act when they are “in love?” (you can use a real person or a book/movie character as an example).
Do you remember the first time you fell in love?
What do you think are the ideal characteristics for a life partner or spouse?
Calling all newlyweds and lovebirds: check out our Family Starts with Two Page for romantic food, fun and conversation ideas tailored just for couples!