Five ways to engage teenagers at mealtimes
Eating at home isn’t always a simple affair especially when you’ve got a hectic weekly schedule and you’re trying to give your kids a balanced diet. From nudging food agonisingly around their plate or being distracted by technology to simply wanting to be anywhere else but the dinner table, it can feel like your children are getting ready for battle. But there is hope and it starts in our homes. Here are five tips for parents to engage teenagers at mealtimes.
- Encourage them to be chef Fire their competitive spirit and challenge your teen to make a meal for everyone – something they’re used to cooking or their own favourite dish. Whatever it is, it will draw admiration from the rest of the family and give them confidence to do it again. Let them be creative and choose every aspect of the meal from how they want the table laid out, what crockery to use and even a playlist to set the mood – so it feels like a special event. Being the host might even make them better appreciate the efforts you go to keep them fed, especially when it comes to tidying up afterwards!
- Go back to your culinary roots Create a meal from your country of origin or from your family’s culture. It will help initiate a conversation with your children especially if they can help you prepare it together in the kitchen. It’s also an alternative and more fun way to celebrate your heritage. Try swapping fun stories at the dinner table and bringing out those old family photos after the meal has finished. This kind of themed event could work brilliantly al fresco as the weather starts to warm up. A good excuse to christen your fancy new garden dining set.
- Breakfast for dinner? Everyone loves a fancy breakfast or lazy brunch on weekends. But have you ever tried breakfast as one of your weekly family evening meals? Not only is it quick to prepare, your teens will look forward to it as it breaks the normal routine and feels fun. And it doesn’t have to be a carb loaded calorie fest either. Try healthier but equally tasty options like adding spinach and peppers to an omelette or grilled asparagus onto poached eggs.
- It’s good to talk Mealtimes are a platform for children to share how they’re feeling in a safe environment. And they have health benefits too – teens who eat together with their families are less likely to suffer from eating disorders according to an American study involving almost 200,000 children and teenagers. But all too often at the dinner table, parents’ default to asking their children about their day at school which can elicit the silent treatment. Instead talk about things that you can both relate to, whether it’s something you saw in the news, social media or online, it will help to make mealtimes something to look forward to rather than dread
- Make movie night fun again Having a family tea in front of the telly is one of life’s guilty pleasures and can be extra special if you do a little prep. Create a cosy atmosphere by spreading fairy lights across your lounge. Or throw some sleeping bags, cushions and blankets across the floor to make a carpet picnic. Having a movie or boxset night needn’t mean takeaway pizza. Try a themed feast like Bollywood inspired Indian snacks or mix it up by letting everyone choose their own dish. All you have to do now is agree on something to watch…