By Rebecca Schwartz, Ph.D.
(Repost from last year as it’s so appropriate for this time of year.)
Now that summer is way over and school lunch tedium has set in, the question: “What can I make for school lunch?” reappears. Many parents contend with school lunches daily for years, and it’s a hassle. It’s often associated with the crazy rush of getting ￼kids dressed, fed, and out the door on time for school. Making school lunch is frequently stressful. What to make? When to make it? Should your children help? When can your children make their own lunch? What if the lunch comes home mostly untouched?
How we think about and prepare our children’s school lunch is important, especially when kids are younger. It’s helpful to try diminishing the stressors from making lunches and reframe it as a way of showing your love for your children. School lunch is what your children take from home and from you to school. It’s an opportunity to show your children how you keep them in mind. Have you been thoughtful and demonstrated that you remember and care about their preferences? Did you remember not to include the slightly browned banana, which he hates, or the squishy strawberries she despises? Have you taken the time to slice the oranges or cut the chicken into manageable pieces and added a napkin and favorite utensil? Have you provided a healthy combination of foods? Do your children like their lunch box, and how about their water bottle? Perhaps adding a drawing or a note would be a welcome surprise. So often, children look forward to their school lunch, and inevitably they compare their meal to their friends’ lunch.
Since we strive for the morning routine to go smoothly, consider making lunches the night before. This way you can be more available for your children in the morning. But evenings are also transitional times and can be demanding too. So when do we squeeze in school lunch preparation? If you want to include your children, perhaps try carving out time each evening just after dinner and turning it into a bonding and learning opportunity. Often we miss teachable moments, which help boost our kids’ independence, because it’s considerably faster to do tasks on our own. Ultimately, when or if to include your children in making lunch (or having them make it alone when they’re older) requires a thoughtful process and depends on the needs of both your child and yourself.
Discussing lunch is a good way to learn more about your children’s experience. The more specific the questions, the more information you’ll elicit. You can ask who they sat next to at lunch, what they liked/disliked about their lunch, anything they’d prefer for lunch the next day, anything their friends had for lunch that they’d like, what about the untouched food, and do they chat with friends while eating?
Try thinking about school lunch as a daily opportunity to connect with your children by doing the task together and/or showing them through what you provide that you care.
About the author:
Dr. Rebecca Schwartz is a licensed clinical psychologist who has been working with children and their parents for over 20 years. Her private practice in Berkeley and San Francisco focuses on early intervention with children and their parents. In addition to working in infant mental health, she specializes in autistic spectrum disorders; attachment difficulties; social skill development; and school related issues. She has collaborated with CW over the last eight years. As a parent, she has combined her own parenting experiences and professional knowledge to develop a deeper understanding of the challenges of parenting and how particular parenting tools can ease this journey. Her passion is to use relationship-based therapy to enhance social and emotional growth in children and re-teach adults (parents, educators, and providers) how to play with abandon, which creates deeper intimacy and understanding of children.
Rebecca Schwartz, Ph.D. Clinical Psychologist. | Adult, Adolescent, and Child Psychotherapy | 2434 Milvia St Berkeley CA 94704 | 672 Second Ave San Francisco CA 94118 | 415 926-8979 | firstname.lastname@example.org | www.rebeccaschwartzphd.com