When I watched the movie “The Blind Side” I was struck by one scene. The Thanksgiving Day meal is set on the counter for everyone to grab and head to the couch. LuAnne sees her “son” Michael head to the table and eat by himself. She quickly realizes the error of her ways, turns off the television, and herds everyone to the table to share their meal together.
Unfortunately, the first part of this scene is more common than the second part of this scene in many families today. Not only that, but the repercussions of not gathering around the table are startling.
The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University’s research indicates that teens who ate dinner five to seven times a week with their families were 45% less likely to try alcohol, 24% less apt to smoke marijuana and 67% more likely to get A’s compared with kids who never or rarely dined with their families.
If your family is not accustomed to sitting around the table for your meals, would you give it a try? I believe you’ll find increased conversation and new sense of family connectedness that you likely desire. Here are some strategies to get you started:
- If you are married, talk to your spouse about the change you’d like to make. Give him/her some time to think about it, ask questions, and get to a place where he/she can share the vision.
- Give your family a few days notice that there will be a change coming soon. For instance, “Hey all, I just want you to know that beginning Thursday of this week, we’re going to eat our evening meal around the table. I know it’s different than we usually do, but I believe it will be better for us in the long haul.”
- Have everyone in the family do something to make the meal successful: set the table, pour drinks, help prepare the food, bring the food to the table.
- Once everyone is seated, hold hands and thank God for the food.
- Pass the food around the table with each person serving what they want onto their plate.
- Share a joke or a funny thing that happened to help everyone engage and laugh together.
- Get in the habit of asking each person some questions, “What was the best part of your day? What was the worst part of your day?” or “How did you encourage someone today?” Enjoy the resulting conversation.
Don’t get discouraged with a grunting teenager or a resistant family member. If you stay positive and encouraging throughout the meal, you’ll eventually create a safe place for family conversation.
Need some ideas? Download your free tip sheet to post at your house: 12 Conversation Starters for Family Meals
What about you? How does your family gather for meals? What do you do to stimulate conversation?