Week Four: The Wise Family ‘Come to the Table’ dinner goal is… MEMORIES!

November 24, 2020

We are already in Week Four of our Dinner Challenge! And this week is a gimme with Thanksgiving!

As we finish off our annual Dinner Challenge this week and as we move through the holiday season, we want to take a few minutes to remind you about the value of making rituals and memories. With this in mind, our team shares how to build memories by focusing on rituals and keeping things regular, safe and warm.

Kasey Cain, Licensed Professional Counselor 

When talking with a group of parents and then a group of educators earlier this school year, I mentioned that I was purposefully choosing to focus on three words: flexibility, empathy, and grace. In looking at this month’s dinner challenge, an annual event for The Wise Family, I had to remind myself of my chosen mantra – flexibility, empathy, and grace.

Personally, even with the pandemic resulting in my family cooking way more and always eating at home, we still don’t always get a chance to sit around the table together. Knowing the benefits of having a family dinner time doesn’t always ensure that we take the time to gather together. Times when we are together don’t necessarily result in meaningful conversation and quality time. When reflecting on those things, it is easy to fall into the habit of saying “we should eat together more” and “it could be a time for meaningful togetherness if only…”

Again, I have to actively remind myself of my mantra – flexibility, empathy, and grace. I offer this mantra for you to use as well. Purposefully plan family dinner and give yourself the flexibility to adjust the plan if needed. Have empathy for your children when they don’t want to join you at the table, engage in conversation, or eat what you have prepared. They have control of so very little in their lives these days and may be looking for ways to take control of when, how, and what they eat. Give yourself grace because you deserve non-judgemental kindness. Then, when your dinner plans do work out and you are able to have a nice family meal, celebrate that as an accomplishment. In those wonderful times, be mindful and savor the meal and the moment.

Whitney Taylor, Resident in Counseling 

Let’s reframe our understanding of rituals. We all have an inner child inside of us who guides our current habits and rituals in one way or another. This inner child and their experiences might be one of the biggest driving forces behind why you do or do not participate in certain rituals with the unit of partners and tiny humans you’ve grown for yourself. This time of year leads me to frequently reflect on the years that my inner child existed as a little person navigating this world – including what I did (or did not) appreciate about my upbringing.

Growing up in a single parent household, my Dad rarely had time to stop to eat or even change his clothes. However the hectic life he led never seemed to blur the lines of our dad-daughter time. When meals couldn’t be had around the table together because the next job was waiting, Dad made sure the next time we had even just five minutes to connect were completely uninterrupted. No phones. No 5:00 news. No paperwork. No distractions. Since it was just the two of us leading one very busy life, I quickly learned the value behind our version of a ritual.

Rituals are not limited to consistent family dinners, staycations, or picture perfect game nights. Rituals can be the mundane and the expected. Consistently check in with one another. Say I love you. My favorite childhood ritual was knowing that each and every day from kindergarten until about 6th grade, I would open my lunchbox and see a note from my Dad. Now my husband is the one who receives a little note in his lunch everyday, and we both can’t wait to pass on the ritual my Dad, without even knowing, started for our future tiny humans.

Rebecca Staines, School/Licensed Professional Counselor

As our lives get busier, and our children grow older I think we often forget the huge value that family sit down dinners can provide. Sitting at the dinner table with one another allows for the family to ask about each other’s day and build social skills and connection. Family dinners also provide a sense of tradition and help model the importance of communication and togetherness. When you sit down to eat a meal with one another you are sending the message that family dinner is sacred and deserves its own designated time and space.

Dinner preparation can also be an opportunity to help your child build skills cooking in the kitchen. Kids need to know the level of work it takes to create a meal. This can build empathy, awareness, and understanding of how hard each member of the family must work to prepare a meal for all to enjoy. To bring back family sit down dinners in your own household, consider purchasing a menu board where each member of the family can select a meal of their choosing for one night of the week. It could also be fun to change up the conversation by creating a bowl of written topics and having one member of the family draw from the bowl to determine the topic for the evening. Whatever you choose to do, make sure you decide as a family and plan for a set time for dinner each night.

In the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, how can you make meals simple? How can you make the small times together into the biggest memories? Keep that in mind and feel free to share any special family dinner traditions you might have with our Facebook Group HERE.

That concludes our Annual November Dinner Challenge! Stay tuned for next year!

Be Wise!