Table Talk

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Invite Great Grandma for Dinner

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As we all know, dinner isn’t just about the food that’s on the table; it’s also about the conversation and the connections around the table. So tonight, invite your great grandmother to dinner.

Today is the day to open wide your fancy dish cabinet. Find the dainty cups, silver napkin holders and soup terrines that hold stories about your ancestors. Dust them off, gather them on your table and get ready for an evening of storytelling.

Tell your kids about why your grandmother or mother or uncle’s heirlooms are special, what were their lives like, and from where did they come?

Every year for my birthday my mother gives me a few pieces of her mother’s silverware. I use them often and am always reminded of the two of them and the seven years during World War II that silverware spent deep in a hole in the backyard, hidden from harm. And I imagine the first dinner after the war, when it was dug up, polished and set at a peaceful table. Had these stories not been told to me, the silverware would just be cutlery and not a reminder of where I am from.

Emory University’s Sloan Center for the Study of Myth and Ritual has spent over a decade studying the impact of rituals and have concluded that passing on our family stories directly builds resiliency and self esteem in our children. And the best place to tell these stories is around the dinner table!

So light great grandma’s dusty old candelabra (no need to polish it first), stick a few daisies in your uncle’s martini shaker and tell your kids the funniest story about when grandpa…

If you don’t tell them, how will they tell their kids?

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Turn off Those Phones and the TV

couple with teenager son  during breakfast

A new study from the Centre for Child and Family Health Promotion Research at the University of Minnesota suggests that using media devices (like smart phones, computers, and the TV) during dinner leads to poorer communication, and interestingly, poorer nutrition.

Parents who reported frequent media use at the table also were less likely to serve fresh vegetables and fruits, and more likely to offer sugar-sweetened beverages.

So turn off those electronic devices during the family dinner!

For more on the study, click here.

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The Resolutions Game

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With 2014 fast approaching, here’s a fun family dinner game around the tradition of the New Year’s resolution. Although resolutions, like gratitude, should be something we focus on year round. To aid in that quest, try this dinner table game:

• Everyone write a resolution on a slip of paper, for a change you want to make or just work on. Or try calling it a “determination” — it’s less New Year’s sounding, isn’t it?

• Fold them up and place them in a bowl.

• Select a reader who reads one at a time. Everyone guesses which thought belongs to whom.

There are lots of fun variations of this game, including writing a resolution for someone else at the table (kind ones only!) or one wish for the world, or one thing that makes you happy. A simple fun game that will get everyone talking and laughing, and extend your dinner a few precious moments longer.

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Table Talk: The Passing Of Nelson Mandela

Former President Nelson Mandela waves at the crowd on arrival at the inauguration ceremony at the Union Building in Pretoria. South Africa.

Each week, The Huffington Post presents a compelling topic to spark discussion at your dinner table. This week’s topic is the passing of Nelson Mandela

Story to read: Former South African President Nelson Mandela Dies At 95

What to say to your kids: Yesterday, we mourned the loss of 95-year-old former South African President, Nelson Mandela. Mandela was far more than just a political leader: he inspired people around the world by battling hatred and injustice. In particular, Mandela is famous for fighting the injustice of apartheid, a brutal system under which the South African government separated whites and non-whites.

Mandela was sent to prison for life in 1964 for opposition to the South African government; he was released in 1990. Thankfully, his painful struggle to end apartheid was not in vain. Three years after he was freed, he was honored with the Nobel Peace Prize, and in 1994, he became president of South Africa.

Tonight, let’s honor Nelson Mandela by reflecting on his words about loving the people around us: “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

Questions for discussion:

* What lessons can we take from Nelson Mandela’s personal and political accomplishments?

* Mandela went to jail for speaking up against his government. What would you do if you saw that someone was being unkind or unfair to others?

* Mandela said “people must learn to hate.” What do you think that means? How can you teach others how to love?

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Sweeten Your Dinner with a Cup of Gratitude

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After reading the 10 newest recipes for how to roast the perfect turkey (are they ever really new?), after writing then losing the mile long grocery list, and after all the shopping and prepping, stuffing, and table setting is done…take a breath. Light the candles. Invite everyone to sit down around the table and just for a moment let’s talk about what Thanksgiving is really about…

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