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…
A 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.
Make the expression of gratitude part of your family dinner ritual. However you say it — with a prayer or blessing, a question for the table, quotes, stories, a few simple words of thanks — gratitude is a basic ingredient to a healthy life.
Here’s an idea: print out some pre-written “gratitude quotes” and place one under each person’s dinner plate. At an appropriate moment, explain that everyone has a special quote under their plate and go around the table reading them. It’s a great way to get everyone involved in expressing gratitude.
Games to play at the table are a great way to get the conversation going during family dinner. Here’s one we like, the Category Word Game:
Pick a category and everyone lists one thing from that category. Go around as many times as is entertaining. For example, the category is summer. I say watermelon, the next person says flip-flops, the next person says beach blanket, and so on. The classic version of this is to play it as a memory game. The person repeats the answers before theirs and then adds their own. We use this game a lot in restaurants waiting for food.
“Picnic” is another fun variation on this game. The first person starts by saying, “I’m going on a picnic and I am bringing salami.” The next person says, “I’m going on a picnic and I’m bringing salami and crusty bread,” and around the table you go. Trust us—it soon gets hard and makes your mouth water! Next thing you know, you’ll be planning a picnic!
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?