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At the Table

Share Your Family Dinner Experience, AtTheTable and AfterTheTable

September 10, 2018     By Boys Town Contributor

At The Table, Family, Healing Families, Parent-Child Relationships

In today's world, it's easy for families to live a lot of their lives apart. Parents are at work, kids are at school, and when there is free time, both are often content to immerse themselves in social media or other screen time. So when families are able to gather together around the table for a meal, it can be easy for parents to overwhelm their kids, and each other, with questions about their day, their lives and their feelings. This "overdrive" approach to communication can cause family members to become defensive and shut down. Instead of creating connections, parents and kids create only frustration!

Rather than interviewing each other about what happened during the day, why not create an atmosphere of sharing and communication over something you already have in common? Practice communicating about the meal in front of you!

From Interrogation Room to Dining Room

Everyone likes to make the joke that relationships are just fights over one question: What do you want to eat?

Sometimes, that question can seem impossible to answer! So instead of trying to answer it, focus your communication on meals on ingredients and options. This instantly takes the anxiety out of the questions.

Instead of asking: What do you want for dinner?
Try: We have chicken, beans, broccoli, rice, tortillas and spaghetti sauce. What can we make out of some of these ingredients?

This can open your family's thinking to creating their own recipes and themed dinner nights (hey, Taco Tuesday started somewhere!), and expanding their ideas about healthy meals!

Other questions that can make conversations feel like interrogations also can be easily restated in "food" terms to get your family to communicate as much as they like!

Instead of asking:  Why aren't you eating?

Try:  How much salad would you like?
Instead of asking:  Are you making friends at school?
Try:  We're having lasagna Thursday. Did you want to invite a friend over for dinner?

Instead of asking:  Are you really going to eat that?
Try:  Are there any other foods we should start keeping around the house?

The Family That Filets Together…

During dinner, ask each family member to describe their favorite part of the meal. Ask what they enjoyed about the meal, what could have made it better and whether it's one of their favorites. Offer praise to everyone who helped prepare or cook the food, or set the table. Discuss which tasks they liked and didn't like, and ask if they think splitting up the work makes family meals more doable. Afterwards, be sure to thank everyone who helped clear the table and do dishes.

Laugh It Off

Messes are going to happen. From meal prep to clean up, accidents, slips and spills are just part of normal kitchen and dining room "collateral damage." Laughing off mistakes when they happen is a great way to make mealtime anxiety free for everyone. After all, it's much easier to clean up spilled milk than to make up after arguing about who spilled it.

Connection Is the Key!

Sharing your successes and setbacks at the dinner table with friends and acquaintances is a great way to encourage them to sit down together with their own families for meals. Talk to them about what works and doesn't work for your family, and let them know how changes you've made have improved your family's communication and closeness. Whether you're exploring your ideas in person or online, some questions you can answer include:

  • What works well for gathering your family together?
  • What tasks do you assign each member of your family?
  • How old is old enough to help out?
  • Do you have any favorite recipes your family loves?
  • Do you have table games or activities your family enjoys?

Help us build a community of Sunday Super Eaters!

Share your tips with us using the hashtag #AtTheTableSundaySuppers, and find others who are talking about what works for them at mealtime. Have some fun and share photos of what your table looks like "After the Meal" (before clean-up takes place, of course). Make sure to include the hashtag #AtTheTableSundaySuppers and tag Boys Town in your posts. 

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