As parents of digital-age teenagers, it can feel overwhelming to meet these challenges and parent in a world that feels constantly plugged-in and on-the-go. Family meals provide an excellent opportunity to connect with your teens and imbue them with healthy habits that can last them a lifetime.
Widespread Internet access allows today’s teens an opportunity to grow with modern technology and develop practical knowledge and skills. At the same time, trying to get teenagers to look away from their phones for a moment can prove difficult, to say the least. Teach your teens how to find time away from the web, games, and social media to help them restore a sense of peace. Fear of missing out (FOMO) affects us all sometimes, but when we allow ourselves and our loved ones to feel consumed by staying up-to-date and in-the-know about everything all at once, we can let priceless moments occurring right in front of us to pass us by. Allow mealtimes to be a time of family togetherness away from the bustling, ever-connected world.
2. Use meals as a teaching tool.
Teenagers aren’t usually the most captive audience, especially when you’re trying to teach them about health and nutrition. Luckily, sneaking some health know-how into your teenager can be as easy as serving up healthy food he or she loves. Serving nutritious, homemade food accustoms your teen to eating well and creates healthy habits that they’re unlikely to break later in life. Meal prep times can also be a learning opportunity for your teen; increasing teenagers’ levels of comfort while cooking with fresh ingredients imbues them with skills they’ll continue to use when cooking as adults.
3. Get chatty.
Communication is key to maintaining any healthy relationship, but it’s especially important that teenagers feel a sense of warmth and openness when engaging with their parents. Teenagers can experience what feels like thousands of personal crises a day, from relationship woes to friendship drama and everything in-between. Our teens often look to us for guidance in navigating this new terrain. A recent survey found that teenagers reported talking to their parents more at mealtimes than at any other time. Make mealtime a space for “anything goes” conversation, and encourage your teen to open up about their ideas, fears, and struggles. As likely the only time you’re guaranteed to spend this amount and quality of time with your teen each day, take advantage of this opportunity to build your relationship and show your teen that you’re invested in helping them grow. Caring goes a long way.