If you ever come to my house for dinner (and please know you're always invited -- I make a killer lasagna!), I have a few rules that everyone has to follow -- no phone, texts or tv during the meal.
One bite of the lasagna and you really won't care who's texting you!
Now actually, this is a rule my parents had way back when we were kids -- raising three teenagers during the dinner hour almost drove my Dad crazy with the constant phone calls.
So one simple rule was born -- no calls during dinner!
"If it's important, they'll call back" my parents would always tell us. Not to mention, the people around the table were JUST as important as the people on the phone.
Dinner was time for our family to sit down and catch up with each other, talk about the day, plan for trips and take time to reconnect.
Did it bug me when I was a kid?
Yea, for about a week.
And then it was just commonplace -- one of the regular family things that we did and a great way to learn about what was going on with my family since we all had our own schedules during the day.
And now it's one of the regular things that our family does --
Life is busy and sometimes it's important to shut out the world and take advantage of those opportunities when we can have some undistracted time to focus on our family.
5 Ways to Unplug & Connect at Dinner
When the kids come in the door after school, they always share the most exciting thing from the day or whatever happened at the end of the day.
Dinner, however, is when we get into the heart and soul of family discussions.
Those most important questions that are more likely to be asked because there are less distractions --
such as "I heard this at school today - what does it mean?"
or the "Did you hear about the (news or local event); what do you think?"
I love those questions because it shows me the kids still value our opinion.
And I know it's not easy -- you hear the 'bing' of your phone tell you there's a text message or your teen just can't seem to stop chatting with their friends.
But focus on the fact that aiming for a quiet, no-tech family meal is important.
Dinner isn't just about the food -- it's a time to learn what's going on with one another.
Disconnect to Reconnect is a movement that encourages families to unplug at the table. Power of Family Meals wants families to gather around the table for meals without screens (phones, TVs, iPads, handheld devices) for at least one meal each week (but I know you can do more ;)
I was so happy to be asked to be a part of this great campaign -- they requested that we have 'Breakfast for Dinner' and share about how our family limits technology during mealtime.
Who can pass up pancakes?!
So HOW do we do this -- avoid screen time during meals?
It took some discussion about why we felt it was important to set aside time without any phones or tv but there were some easy ways to integrate the no-tech rule -- here's a few ideas that might work for your family:
Charge the Phones During Meals
Use mealtime as an opportunity to plug ALL the phones in for a recharge while the family recharges too.
Keep Hands Busy
Getting everyone involved in meal prep, serving and cleaning is a great way to keep busy and focused. You can't text if you're flipping pancakes or loading the dishwasher.
It's also prime time for starting conversations and learning some life skills too!
Use Meal Time as Review Time
Practice those math facts, spelling words or review for a test. It's also a great time to talk about what activities and events are on the calendar for the week or talk to teens about college options as they get older.
Start a Daily Question Game
When the J.M. Smuckers company sent us a cool box of goodies for this post, they also included a great set of Family Questions -- fun things that you can learn about each other.
Do your kids know your favorite song?
Do you know what parts of the world your kids want to see someday?
It's kind of like first dates for families – things we may not think to ask each other because we get caught up in the day-to-day activities.
One of our favorite questions in the deck --
Wouldn't I like to be a fly on the wall at your house when the kids answer this one!
If you're looking for something to kick-start discussions at your table, here are a few items from our affiliates that might be helpful:
Both the TABLETOPICS Family Infomania: Questions to Start Great Conversations and the fun card set from Melissa & Doug: Family Dinner Box Of Questions are great resources for connecting around the table. And you can take them out to dinner with you too -- keeps the kids busy while they wait for their food ;)
Start a Read Aloud Story
Use meal time as reading time!
Start a family read-aloud and do a chapter each night. Or choose items from the newspaper or one of the kids' school newsletters to read and discuss.
If you're looking for some suggestions, browse the books on our 50 Great Family Read Alouds.
Be sure to have your family take the Disconnect to Reconnect Pledge and start your unplugged family discussions this week!
I promise, you will learn some very interesting things during your discussions.
For example, you're likely to hear:
"oh Mom, I need to bring (some random object that requires a trip to the store) to school tomorrow" ;)
You might even find out where your son picked up that wonderful word he's been repeating so frequently or why your daughter wants to dress like a fairy every day for school.
Most important, you'll learn that the kids still value your opinion and WANT to have these discussions.
And if you happen to hear any good jokes, please pass them my way -- I can never come up with ones as funny as the kids'!
More Ways to Make Memories
I participated in a Blogger Activation on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for the J.M. Smucker Company. I received product samples to facilitate my review as well as a to thank me for my participation.