Consultant child and educational psychologist Laverne Antrobus says:
“Creating an environment at home that helps children feel safe has never been more important. The pandemic has highlighted that family routines, particularly mealtimes, provide a space for children and parents to come together to talk about Covid-19 and what changes it’s brought for them as a family.
“New research commissioned by McCain as part of its Nation’s Conversations report, which focuses on the importance of maintaining quality family time at the dinner table, reveals 80% of children look forward to talking to their parents over a meal at the dinner table, and 95% feel talking is important and makes mealtimes together enjoyable.
“Mealtimes can be a special point in the day when other tasks are
put on hold and the focus is on being together. They provide an opportunity to address other important subjects, and also general family life, ensuring conversation is rounded and addresses good news as well.
“Sharing thoughts and feelings with family at mealtimes is a helpful way of knowing how everyone’s coping. Children in particular are helped to regulate their own emotions by hearing the thoughts of their parents. Being honest and open about how you and they might be feeling will be especially helpful.
“Research shows that for more than two-thirds of families, conversations during the past six months were more open and honest than they previously were, with 64% of parents feeling their children spoke about their feelings to them more during lockdown.
“As challenging as the last six months have been, creating time to check in with children will continue to be important as we navigate the challenges that Covid-19 presents. Use this time to do other activities you enjoy together, like going out for walks or creating the shopping list for a family meal that can be cooked together.
“Keeping an eye on important routines such as bedtimes and completing homework will also help everyone focus on the things that make family life run more smoothly.
“Time together provides a moment in the day children can count on as everyone adapts to this ‘new normal’. Bringing a hopeful dimension to the discussions about what everyone’s doing to stop the spread of this virus will bring some comfort to settle children’s minds, and perhaps your own.
“Create opportunities for family time, give children a chance to choose what the family can do together, perhaps playing a game or watching a film. Encourage children to take up new hobbies or start something they’ve wanted to do for a while.
“Look after yourself by making time to speak to friends. This will give you a chance to talk to them about how you’re doing and hear how other parents are managing.
“At this crucial time, the everyday parts of family life that can be relied upon will help children feel there’s something steady as they move with you through the next stage of this pandemic.”