Last week we discussed the need for discussion over dinner and I said to check back this week for some results from recent research. Children aged 8 to 16 years, from 188 schools across the UK, completed the questionnaire in their classrooms late last year.
The data suggests that:
- sitting in silence at mealtimes is worse for children's confidence than not sitting down for family meals at all
- 62% of those who talk daily with their families at mealtimes feel confident to speak in front of a group, compared with 47% of those who eat in silence and 52% of children who don't sit down for meals.
- 75% of those who chat at family meals said they felt confident to join in class discussions, compared with 57% of those who sit together to eat but never or rarely talk and just over two-thirds 64% of those who don't sit down for meals.
-87% sit down with their family at mealtimes, but while 74% of families chat at mealtimes every day, some 7% reveal they ate together in silence.
- 68% of 14- to 16-year-olds chat at mealtimes, compared with 76% of 11- to 14-year-olds.
The trust's director Jonathan Douglas said: "Our research shows just how vital conversation at home is to the future success of our children and young people. Talking and communicating at home, for example at mealtimes, will help children gain the skills they need for a successful and happy life."
So let’s bring back meal time chat! Sometimes you may need to jiggle your schedule about, for example one day a week we get up earlier than other days and one evening a week the children stay up a little later than usual. There will be families who need to begin with a conversation plan as a prompt for conversation topic and other families will need props to prompt conversation, such as a newspaper or photos of their day. Others may need to learn to ‘step back’ during meal times so as their children or teenagers have a chance to ‘speak first’ and then get reinforced for their chatter. Every family is so different. If you have any ‘mealtime chatter’ tips for us to share, I would love to hear from you.