October is Eat Together, Eat Better month, but the direct and indirect perks of gathering family and friends around the table are always in season.
Many of those benefits are — you guessed it! — related. The table is its own social setting, where people of all ages model and observe nutritional choices, ways of communicating, and more.
That sounds so formal, doesn’t it? But communication doesn’t need to be heavy conversation. Sharing a funny story about your day counts. So does listening to someone else tell a story. And honestly, so does, “Hmm, I wonder who’s slipping carrots to the dog from their plate.”
Sharing the day-to-day around the table can help kids develop their listening and problem-solving skills. It can help you remember what it feels like to be a kid, even though every generation is different. It’s a good place and time for people to feel recognized, heard, and cared for. (Pro tip: It’s not required to tell your older child or teen that you’re sneaking communication into the meal, the way you snuck in squash a few years ago.)
If you've lived with a picky eater or been one yourself, you know it's a complicated issue. But leading by example can be a quiet and effective way to influence food choices. “I never used to like green beans; go figure” leaves the door open for trying or revisiting foods without making pickiness the center of attention.
If you’re able to prepare meals at home at least some of the time, you already know that they tend to be more nutritious than meals eaten out because you have more control over the ingredients. Letting your child help with age-appropriate meal prep is another way to introduce new foods without forcing the issue, as well as a way to bolster self-respect around newly learned skills. Plus, it creates an additional opportunity for communication.
Social skills by any other name might be “etiquette” or “manners.” It gives you the chance to model politeness, patience, the nuances of conversation, and — because these items are related — problem-solving skills. Kids and others will absorb the way you handle potential conflict, your ability to laugh at yourself, and the ways you listen to and encourage others.