Family Meals – A Neglected Practice
We fall into bad habits very easily and those routines are often difficult to break. One of those habits is the way we socialize with our family and we need to ensure that we are talking in the right way to each other on a regular basis and in a constructive way. For many years, as I came home from school, my mother and I would have the same riveting conversation on a daily basis:
“How was school?”
“What did you do?”
I do regret that breakdown in communication because she only wanted to know how my day had been and I gave her nothing. Families need conversation and communication in order to work more effectively. The more I grow up, the more I think about how my parents only wanted to help. My parents were always able to give me advice not only because they had been there, but because they knew me better than anyone else. Only when I began shutting them out and trying to figure it out on my own did I start making mistakes they “wouldn’t understand”.
Kids will argue that socialization has changed and that we communicate differently now, but I refuse to believe we are so far advanced that we don’t need face to face interaction. One day our kids will grow up and they will have meetings and introductions at their respective workplaces. They need the social skills that we teach them in order to thrive and be confident when meeting new people and talking to people in the real world.
There are things we can do to improve the communication among our family and a great idea for constant improvement is to eat together as often as possible. It may sound simple but you would be surprised how many families neglect this simple but effective and highly important family bonding and social skills exercise.
Here are some good tips for quality family time.
Designate meals where the family will eat together. We all have busy lives, it’s understandable that some might have yoga or Pilates on a Tuesday and some might have football training on a Thursday but try to make something work. Choose at least one day a week for everyone to sit down together and eat as a family unit. Meal time with families are extremely important, even if they drive you crazy sometimes.
It should go without saying that smartphones should be banned from the dinner table, especially during the time you have designated to all eat together. Our family turns off the TV and gets rid of magazines and newspapers at dinner. Choose some rules that make sense such as leaving negativity behind and no swearing. Obey the rules and set consequences for those who decide to go against them.
Take Turns to Speak
Understand that kids might not be used to this but take it in turns to speak to each other and debate things without the use of sharing something you found online. If you have an idea or an observation, tell the table but don’t be rude or confrontational. It’s always a good idea to try and move the conversation around the table and highlight the good, the bad and the challenging aspects of each of our daily lives.
Stay Until it’s Over
This might want to get back to their digital world but this one is far more important. Don’t leave until everyone has finished and don’t make too many exceptions. The main principle behind sharing a family meal together is giving everyone a time to speak and be heard as a family unit, together.
It may be difficult to relax when things are rough and certain someones are getting under your skin, but it is very important not to leave the dinner table angry. The dinner table should be a welcomed place to sit and if there is any grievance, it should be addressed so that the entire family can work to get it resolved.
Sitting down at the dinner table and talking together might seem like a simple thing but it is an important family ritual that is often overlooked and underestimated. The technology behind communication may have changed but the basic family unit has not changed fundamentally. Families that eat, talk and laugh together are families that stay together and look out for each other. Make sure that the smartphones and tablets that are supposed to be bringing us together aren’t actually pushing us apart.