Monday, August 30, 2010

Mealtime is Connecting Time

We are all incredibly busy. That is why family dinners, at least a few times a week, are very important to keep families connected. When did you last eat dinner with those you love? When I am assessing a family, I always want to know when and if they eat together, as well as whether they worship together, or do other fun activities as a family on a frequent basis.

I'm not picky about how gourmet you get. It's okay with me if make something simple, or bring dinner in. As a structural family therapist, I am interested in a candle being lit, and each family member sharing about their day. It can be fun to ask each person the best and worst thing about their day. Even the Obamas reportedly share "the rose and the thorn"of their day with their family.

Keeping the mood light and positive at family meals. It is great to get as many family members involved as possible with ideas for meals, preparing the meal, and cleaning up the kitchen together. We don't want the children to dread dinner because Mom and Dad are nagging, lecturing or complaining about things the whole time.

In a world of fragmentation and technology, family mealtimes are a needed break. Be sure to role model turning off the television, all cell phones,and put away the laptop. The message is: for these 20 minutes, we turn off the outside world, and our family is the most important thing. We all hunger for punctuation marks that bring us sanctuary and respite. It brings us to the present moment with those we love and focuses us on intentional connecting.

I am realistic. You may not be able to do family dinner every night. We can't in my family, either. Do it as often as you can. Even 3 or 4 times a week will make a difference in how connected your family feels. Every adult needs to help get things going. In contrast to what you might expect, teens most often tell me they like dinner with the family. Several local gift shops in Orange County sell sets of question cards called 'Table Topics' that give you lots of other question ideas.

Plan a family dinner this week. It's not just filling your family's stomachs, its about creating closeness and connection in a world of forces pulling you towards disconnection. You can make the difference in your family. Family meals can be a hassle, or a gift. The choice, as always, is yours and mine.

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