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David Coleman - Family Mealtimes

Monday, 5 October 2009

David is here to talk to The Afternoon Show about the importance of family mealtimes.

With our hectic work and school schedules - time is precious and families rarely all get to sit down at the dinner table together.

David Coleman

David Coleman attended University College Dublin and is now is a clinical psychologist who has been practising Clinical Psychology working with children and families for over eleven years.

David is the author of the bestselling book 'Parenting is Child's Play'.

Meet the Family
Families in Trouble
Teens in the Wild
21st Century Child

David gives lectures and workshops to groups all around the country on topics ranging from parenting to communication.

He is also a weekly expert contributor to the Parenting Section of Health Plus the Irish Times' weekly supplement every Tuesday.

On Family Mealtimes
I have long been a proponent of sitting down and having family mealtimes. A lot of the times I get queries from parents about their children's eating and problems they may be having with food and one of the big things is for parents to be relaxed about the meal and not necessarily feel that the whole function is to eat but that it is a social occasion and that can take a lot of the pressure off when you have issues with food for children. When families sit down they can have a social occasion and that builds relationships.

Has there been a decline in family mealtimes?
I think so, families have been busier and families often organise a lot of activities for their kids and they all go off in different directions. But it also means families can spend less time together.

Not spending enough time with your family can have a negative effect on children but mealtimes is a natural opportunity for families to come together it's a lot easier to do this than have a family meeting but you could still cover the issues that concern you at the dinner table. You can talk about the good and bad things that are happening.

Top Tips
. Make sure you have a clear table and enough chairs for everyone.
. Tell the family when you are planning to have the meal - give them time to re- organise themselves.
. If time is an issue make quick and easy meals.
. Get everyone involved - get the kids to help with the shopping and preparing the food.
. Turn the TV, radio and mobiles off.
. Dress up the table - make it an occasion - something special. Get the kids to help.
. Encourage conversation - get the family to talk about their day - any news? Good or bad.
. Eat slowly - children learn from parents habits so try to set the example. There's no point in gobbling down the food and leaving the dinner table in a few minutes.

How often should families sit down?
I don't just presume that parents aren't sitting down with their kids. Every family is different - look at your own family and maybe try to have 2 more mealtimes together. You can always build from that. I'm a realist and I know people are busy and you shouldn't set the bar too high at the start. Myself and my family have family mealtimes.

Teens in The Wild
The second series this year is filmed in Donegal and will be concentrating on teenage girls. It is the second series and it will air in the new year.

21st Century Child
This is the second series and will follow the children and their parents for 6 years. The kids are now around 12-18 months. We first saw them when they were new borns. Just looking at their development and what is happening with the families.

Key to good parenting:
Patience and good communication. The more open you are to listening as well as talking to them the better but patience is crucial.