As a family health and parenting advocate– I’d like to introduce you to one of my favorite phrases…
“Slow parenting“– a trend that emerged back in 2009– when my kids where in middle-school and high-school. The phrase took aim at multitasking parents who were scheduling dance classes on the cell phones while dropping the kids off at soccer– or those driving endlessly from activity to activity while serving mealtimes in the car. Instead, I decided to use the slow parenting concept and discover the important activities. I decided to concentrate on the few… instead of the many. I committed to share slow time as a family – more quality time– and less quantity. That was the year I grew up as a parent. What took me so long? I finally had enough and presented my family with an agreement to slow down. To commit to us. To meet at the dinner table for family mealtimes, minimum three days a week.
Six years later, we still have mealtimes together- at least 5 days a week. My children are in college and working full time so, dinner is now at 8:30 pm– which, was bedtime. I am very grateful for my deep-rooted connection with my children. I owe some of it to our family meal-times!
According to CASA – The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, at Columbia University reports studies have shown that kids who eat with their families frequently are less likely to get depressed, consider suicide, and develop an eating disorder and use drugs.
They are also more likely to delay sex and they report that their parents are proud of them. When a child is feeling down or depressed, family dinner can act as an intervention. Around the dinner table we would each take a moment to express what was the best and the worse thing that happened to each of us during the course of the day. Sometimes I’d only be able to squeeze out just the worse of the best. Of course, it does depend on the day, and the child communicating. These two questions provoke conversations you would never expect– and sometime, you might not want to hear, but need to. This is the slow parenting opportunity– the time to seize– to connect with your child. Give support, and offer feedback or… many times, and opportunity to just listen.
My idea, credited to author– Carl Honore whose book, “The Power of Slow” served as the impetus of the slow parenting movement. Slow Parents keep the family schedule under control so that everyone has enough downtime to rest, reflect and just hang out together. Honore says:
“Slow parents understand that child-rearing should not be a cross between a competitive sport and product-development. It is not a project… it’s a journey.”
I believe everyone needs to just get back around the kitchen table and break bread together. No phones. No Television running. Just you and the kids- eating and talking. Breaking bread with my kids at the family table has deeply rooted me to conversations about what was really happening in my children‘s lives. I learning things, as a parent I NEEDED to know. I honestly, I really believe I would have not gathered any of that intel elsewhere.
Here it is 2016 . Back to school is approaching fast. This year, make it a point to designate a day or two each week to prepare and break bread together. Allow the kids to be a part of the meal time cooking journey too. When you’re in the kitchen with your child, how often do you find yourself pouring the flour, dumping the spice, washing the bowl… and before you know it, the child has only had a chance to watch, let them stir. It’s only natural for us as parents to drive these skill sets, as they were driven for us. Slow that down too.
Here are lists of items that can help you get started this started to allowing your kids to help you work in the kitchen– remember it’s the process, not the outcome. As adults we view the world differently- in the kitchen, we all will have to address a child’s natural interest in the variety of shinny small wares we have in the drawer. Because we use peelers, mashers, and cutters in our home kitchens on a regular basis, young children will naturally be curious about them. Parents and caregivers look at that overstuffed utensil drawer as something that fulfills a purely functional purpose. But what does a child see? Through the eyes of a child, that over stuffed drawer looks like a toy box full of fun gadgets and this can be dangerous.
While slow parenting in the kitchen implies a child get involved in the preparation for family mealtime; it doesn’t mean to leave them unattended with hot or sharp kitchen materials.
Given the right equipment and an opportunity to use it correctly, your child will be able to manage peelers, paring knives, and other kitchen gear with surprising dexterity and confidence. Kitchen tools can also be hurtful to small hands– also to tweens and teens. When making your determinations, keep in mind every child is different. You should make the decision based on the child’s ability to focus, their desire to learn and their dexterity. Children should always be supervised in the kitchen but allow them to take on tasks, unless you see danger ahead.
Children under 7 years old should be given tasks of measuring, additions of ingredients, stirring, kneading or mixing anything by hand. They can also shape dough, spread things, mash, shred or tear herbs and lettuces. Shucking peas and legumes is a good thing. Shopping, test tasting, and involve everyone in cleanup. Children 7 to 9 can handle peeling tasks. Guide a small hand with your own hand at first. The more often they hear, “Always peel away from you, not toward you,” the better. Have them peel over a paper towel for easy clean up.
Children 11 and older are usually ready to begin using a paring knife. While peeling vegetables with length like carrots– help keep their hands and the peeler further and further apart from one another. Start this age group put with vegetables that offer a little less resistance, and are easier to cut, such as zucchini and cucumbers.
Kids 13 and older can use larger knives and tackle more challenging cutting jobs. Even though these kids show more dexterity– keep an eye on them. Usually this age breeds confidence which will lead to increased speed. Increased speed can lead to cuts. A gentle reminder to slow down is often the best way to keep someone on the right road. Make sure all your knives are sharp. If (and let’s hope not) someone gets cut- it is better to apply first aide to a cut from a sharp knife– than to tidy up a cut from an unsharpened one.
Whatever you decide to do- just remember … it’s ok not to attend every function, participate in every activity… and it’s ok to say, “No… we are already booked.” You and I will know- you are booked for the most important time of the day. Family mealtimes!
Spending slow parenting time in the kitchen will be a rewarding experience for your whole family!