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Is It Okay To Watch TV During Dinner?

Lori Freson

Health, Wellness, & Safety

Is it ever okay to watch TV during dinner?  Most of us were raised to believe that dinnertime is supposed to be a special time for family bonding.  It is when the family comes together, talks about their day, and shares quality time together.  And this can be true, and can be a beautiful and sacred ritual.  Except when your kids have ADHD.

This is what dinnertime is like with kids that have ADHD.  Fidgeting, tapping, banging, squirming, interrupting, talking over one another, crying, blaming, and fighting.  Sounds pleasant, huh?  It’s not only unpleasant, it can be torture, and mealtime can become something dreaded, rather than something to look forward to.  Except that all changes when the TV is on.  But that’s bad, right?

Not so fast.  A very intelligent and extremely attuned pediatrician once told me, “Go ahead.  Put the TV on during dinner.  C’mon, let’s be real.  No meaningful conversation is happening during that meal.  Do what you have to do to make it peaceful, and have your meaningful conversations some other time, like in the car on the way to school”.  Wow.  She just gave me permission to do what I thought was such a terrible thing to do.  And she was right.  Dinnertime became happier, and we ended up having incredible conversations in the car.

Here is the bottom line.  If your kids have ADHD, give yourself permission to parent in a way that works for your family.  This very well might not look like traditional parenting or like what everybody else does.  So what?  You need to make the best possible decisions you can make at any given moment in any given situation.  Keep an open mind, and be flexible.  Your children will learn from this.

Here are some tips you can use to make it easier to raise children with ADHD.

  1. Be creative.  If that means turning the TV on during dinner, then just do it.  Have your meaningful conversations some other time.
  2. Have rules, whatever they might be, and enforce them.  But be flexible enough to change the rules as needed.
  3. Build structure into the day.  Kids with ADHD often have difficulty transitioning, so it helps to know what comes next and when.
  4. When dining out, bring things to occupy them.  Be realistic in your expectations.  Even though other kids might be able to sit through a meal in a restaurant easily, yours can’t.  Be prepared.
  5. Give yourself a break.  Care less what other people think, and do what is best for your family.

Raising kids with ADHD can be difficult, exhausting, and overwhelming.  Do your best, and remember to take care of yourself!

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Lori Freson

Lori Freson is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Southern California. She has been working in the mental health field since 1997, and has been a licensed therapist since 2002. Lori currently works in her own thriving private practice in Encino and Sherman Oaks, where she serves the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles areas.