Why Are Family Mealtimes So Stressful?
The battles around your dining table might be a reflection of your inner battles from the past - which have been triggered by eating with your new family.
Q - I have two children and I dread eating with them. I want to lock myself away with my own food so that I could enjoy it in peace. I hate the picky-ness, refusing to eat certain foods even though they’ve had them before, the noise and arguments, and the wasted food.
My husband comes in late and eats separately from us, and at weekends we don’t seem to have the same problems when he’s around as when I’m on my own with the kids. What is it about me that makes them play up and create such a drama about eating their food?
A - I’m interested in the differences between the times when your husband is around and when he’s not. What influence does he have and what boundaries is he setting that you’re not?
Without being present at your dining table I can only guess what the problem is regarding the clarity and robustness of your boundaries, and the atmosphere around the table.
Food is an emotive subject that goes way beyond nourishment. It can represent power and control, acceptance or rejection of nourishment and growth, a substitute for time, attention and love – and it’s power comes from our absolute necessity for it.
What also makes me curious is YOUR relationship with food and what you may be subconsciously passing on to your children. Don’t worry, if you are doing so, it will be out of your awareness so don’t go blaming yourself.
What I suggest is that you spend a few quiet moments alone, have your eyes closed and take a few slow deep breaths…extending the outgoing breath to slow and relax your mind and body.
Now take yourself back in your memory to a typical scene with your own family when you were a child…first of all as a young child of about 4-7 and then again later in your teens.
Focus upon who would be at the family dining table with you.
What would the atmosphere be like?
How were you feeling inside your body?
What was spoken, and more importantly what wasn’t spoken about?
How would you be behaving and why?
Do this for both ages and then contrast the two scenes.
To what extent might some of your old associations with food and family mealtimes be playing out again in the present day?
The battles you see nowadays around your dining table might be a reflection of your inner battles from the past - which have been triggered by eating with your new family.
When you can separate your past from the present you can change the future.
Also, be very clear and robust about what is acceptable, and what will not be accepted or tolerated, from your children from now on.
Keep yourself feeling light, open, happy and receptive to the present moment – the only moment you really have with your children – and aim to enjoy the experience of sharing the nurturing and nourishment of your food.
Ask your husband to come home earlier whenever he can so that the family feels more ‘complete’ for the children and they’re not playing up and punishing you for dad not being there during the weekday evenings.
It’s important that you and your husband are ‘singing from the same song-sheet’ too…and you may want to explore this (as well as lots of other parenting tips and advice) in the FREE booklet ‘Opti-Mum Parenting’ and the online course called ‘How To Sort Out Your Children – Without Child Therapy’ (with a discount code TENOFF to bring it down to only £27)
Remember ‘Care & Repair Starts From The Inside Out’ © and when you re-parent your own inner child the knock-on effect to your children is huge!
Both the FREE e-booklet and online course are available from my website www.maxineharley.com
MAXINE HARLEY (MSc Psychotherapy) MIND HEALER & MENTOR