In our NYC family therapy practice, we relate to the family, not just the individual relationships, as the unit that is seeking help from us. Understanding the importance of the family as a unit, there is value in gathering the family together as a whole rather than setting aside individual time with just Sally or time with Johnny. By setting aside time and space for family time, the family can collectively develop its identity–a sense of something larger than the particular relationships within the family unit.
One way to bring the family together is through family dinnertime, which The Huffington Post highlights in a recent article that quotes Tribeca Therapy. Talking with our director Matt, writer Taylor Pittman lays out the five ways families can get the most out of their dinnertime together (or if a family can’t do a daily sit-down dinner, some form of family time). These tips include getting the family talking, recognizing non-verbal cues, being conscious of how you talk about food (i.e. avoid body shaming) and figuring out how to deal with technology at the table, including embracing technology to bring in family members via video chat who can’t physically be at the table.
More specifically, Matt joins the discussion on how families can benefit from the communication and interactions at the table. Even if kids aren’t necessarily participating in the discussion, they can witness the healthy relationships and communication between parents, caregivers and other family members. In particular, it’s, as Matt says, “an opportunity to observe interactions.” Observing relationships between people in your family that don’t immediately involve you is meaningful, whether seeing parents interact (in a two-parent home) or other siblings interacting with one another and with a parent. Ultimately, observing love, communication and even, conflict is an essential part of developing the family relationship.