Research suggests that children who eat dinner with their families:
- receive better grades
- eat more nutritious foods
- are less likely to engage in risky behaviors (drugs/alcohol/promiscuity)
All that is great, but of course, the importance of families eating together isn’t just about the food – it’s about taking the time to sit down together as a family and talk – share stories, discuss problems and dilemmas that occurred during the day, and talk about future goals and plans.
However, for children with hearing loss meal times can be one of the most difficult places to follow conversations. Take the time to think about what occurs during your family meal and what adjustments you can make. The following tips can help
What else is going on in your eating area? If you have typical hearing it’s easy to drown out a noisy dishwasher or a whistling tea kettle and focus on the conversation, but for a child with hearing loss it is difficult to tune out additional noise. Beware of background noises that are happening during a meal, which ones can you reduce (do you really need to eat with the TV or the radio on?) Ask your child which noises bother her during mealtime.
What’s filling your space Sounds likes to bounce around empty spaces and echoes and reverberations make it difficult to hear the gist of a conversation. Kitchens and other eating areas often have bare floors which can contribute to echoes. Will it help if you put tennis/rubber balls on chair legs? Is it possible to put a rug under your table (don’t be afraid of making a mess of your rug there are some great indoor/outdoor rugs you can use and the best part if you can literally take it outside once a month and house it down!)
Where can I sit? Think about where your child sits during meals. Shadows on family members faces, or light coming from behind the speaker can make it difficult for a child with hearing loss to focus on the speakers mouth if they are trying to lip read.
Mind your manners. Talking with your mouth full of food is not only bad manners, but it can also distort sounds that your child needs to hear. Remind other family members to finish chewing before they contribute to the conversation.
Who said that? Multiple conversations are difficult for a child with hearing loss to follow. Be aware of what conversation he is a part of and help him follow the speaker. Depending on the age of your child you can either ask the speaker to slow down, or your child can begin to advocate for themselves.
I’ll get back to you on that It can take a little extra time for your child think of an answer to a question, or to get her thoughts in order to share a story. Let other family members know that it’s okay to have a pause in the conversation and help your child with some prompts like: “What happened next?” or “How did that make you feel?”