I think the biggest way to build attachment relates to meal times. Especially if you can spend that time as a complete family, from the preparation to the eating and clean up. Growing up I believe it was easier to accomplish if you lived in a family where one parent worked while the other could stay at home.
My father worked a regular 8-4:30pm job as a supervisor for a fire alarm, clock and harness making company. My mother and my brother and I would all help to keep the house tidy and then at dinner we would all eat together. Who knows what the conversations would be about: sometimes asking simple questions about how my brother and I did in school, sometimes discussing current events of the day, but we would learn how to ebb and flow with the conversations. We’d laugh, we’d love, we’d pick up after the meal and wash and clean the dishes together- but it was our time to enjoy each others company.
In today’s faster paced world, both parents may work the same shift but often have overlapping schedules, which makes it increasingly difficult to get a complete family together during the week for meals. But where there is a will, there is a way. In our home my wife and I work different shifts. On the weekends we make it a point to eat together as a family at least one of the three meals- but usually end up eating together for 4 out of the 6. During the week between therapy, after-school activities and our own interests we still manage to get 1 or 2 dinner times in a week together as a family.
The kids often request it. We’ll shut off the computers and the television and just have the people, the food and the conversation to entertain us. We are working on social skills even at a basic level. Our daughters strive to be heard- but they also need to learn the art of pausing, reflecting, listening and learning. It’s tough for them to learn these skills in the hustle and bustle 20 minute school lunch programs- it’s enough to just be heard over the hundreds of conversations going on at the same time.
So spend the time to plan and decide how often you will eat together- what meals will be made and served and involve everyone in the process. Teach your children the skills necessary to cook part if not all of the meal for the family- and learning how to pick up after themselves. You’ll be surprised the boost in self-esteem and self-confidence these meals will give them- everyone wants to feel special, needed and important. Help them understand that manners in the home translate to proper manners when eating out. That phrases such as “please” and “thank you” go a long way to gaining respect and getting the items you desire.
And if you lead a busy life with your children and you going in 3-4 different directions, start with a once a week meal time even if it’s on the weekends. People let their inhibitions down when surrounded by food and drinks, and I think you’ll get some honest perceptions from your children about the job you are doing as a parent.
It’s the time of year where we have bigger family celebrations and special meals for the holidays- but never forget that every meal together as a family is something unique to your children. Be good to yourself and others in your life- have a wonderful day and connect with someone you haven’t been in touch with in some way today.