4 Ways to Protect Family Meal Time

Come to the Table

No matter your opinion of A &E’s reality show Duck Dynasty ,  you gotta admit the ending of each episode gives you the warm fuzzies .

The Robertson family gathers around the table, their heads bowed in respectful prayer (I love that the men always take off their hats) as patriarch Phil says grace.

When our family comes to visit, we’ll crowd around the kitchen table, say grace and enjoy the food and fellowship. If your family has gotten away from this habit, I would encourage you to begin today to sit down together for a meal at some point in the day. I know you’re all busy and may not be able to do this every day, but when you can, do it. Your family will be blessed by this simple action. ~Miss Kay 

Protect Family Meal Time

Brooke Showell suggests the following ways to protect your family meal time .

  1. Put dinner on the books

Only 48% of American families regularly eat together in the evening, according to a Harvard School of Public health survey. If you must, schedule dinner for a later time when everyone is home, or aim to eat together just one night a week and work up from there.

The average family dinner last only 20 minutes, so coordinating schedules is a common barrier to carving out this crucial time. suggests penciling in future family dinners for the upcoming week. Send e-mail invites to family members or set phone reminders.

Aim for five dinners per week. Research has shown that this is the ideal number at which adolescents reported less stress in their families.

Can’t make an evening dinner work? “Dinner” can be anytime, anywhere. Breakfast, lunch or takeout. What really matters is that you’re all together.

  1. Recruit your kids as sous chefs

Enlist your kids to pick one or two nights a week to cook.  Help them search cookbooks or online for doable recipes and write ingredients needed on a grocery list. Allow them to go with you grocery shopping.

I get it that it is easier and quicker to do this by yourself. You know your kids and their food tastes. Begin with simple meals they enjoy, allowing them to help .

The Kids Cook Monday is a great online resource using expertise from Columbia, John Hopkins and Syracuse Universities, that provides recipes families can make together, easy conversation starters and other tools.

  1. Turn off electronics.

We are a society on the go. It seems we have more ways than ever to communicate with each other. And, yet despite the technology of texting, instant messaging, cell phones, and video conferencing, our relationships often suffer from lack of communication. The answer is not better usage of technology, but rather in a timely treasure…the Table. ~ Devi Titus

I commend Dixie brand disposable products for encouraging people to go Dark for Dinner. The campaign started June 14, with Dixie asking families to remove all distractions, including electronics, at dinnertime on Sundays.

Afterward, everyone is encouraged to share a moment from their experience by using the hashtag #DarkForDinner.

Talk as a family about tech rules ahead of time. Assign one child the job of turning off the TV and have a basket in the kitchen for everyone (INCLUDING PARENTS) to drop their phones in (with the ringers off).

  1. Promote fun chitchat

As you sit around the table, encourage eye contact, and make dinner a judgment-free zone. (Forbid talk about test scores or discipline.) You want your family to look forward to sitting together around the table.

  • Play the “bad and good” game around the dinner table. Each member should report on a positive and a negative from the day. Researchers have found that by watching others (including Mom and Dad) navigate ups and downs in real-time, children develop empathy and solidarity with those around them.
  • Start a conversation jar filled with wacky topics. If chitchat stalls, bring up a challenge you and your spouse recently faced at work, then ask your kids for their opinions. Research show that parents who share family stories help their children have greater resilience and self-esteem.
  • A tool Dennis and I recently found and use is the acronym SASHET: Sad, Angry, Scared, Happy, Excited and Tender.

Each family member chooses one or more of the words that most closely expresses how they are feeling and explains the reasons why.

It’s a checking in process. “I’m checking in as scared and excited because…”

There is so much more I’d love to share with you about the Family Table Principle. Please check out the resources listed below.

Are you ready to begin protecting your family meal time? Begin with just one tip. Which one are you choosing?

I’d love to know.

You are loved,

Debbie

I highly recommend Devi Titus’ book, The Table Experience. Watch her here.

 

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