Many parents are asking themselves lots of questions regarding how to shepherd their children during such emotionally charged times. In my opinion and for our family, the dinner table is a stabilizer. It is the place where we reinforce family values, get to know one another and to provide a calm, balanced, energetically centering (or grounded) space for the family.
Also, in an age of the ‘world at our fingertips’, where children have access to non-stop, virile, propaganda via social media, the dinner table is where, we as parents, take the reigns and redirect our attention and focus as a family. So, if you are feeling helpless and/or at a loss for how to handle the world outside your front door, why not start at the table.
In order for this to be effective, I’d like to offer a few words of advice that have helped me position my thinking and provide a foundation for my actions.
The guiding premise here is that WE, as parents, control the environment, values and morals within our home; not the news, not entertainers, pundits and actors opinions, not Facebook, not Tiktok, Instagram or Youtube.
We understand that although social media has a HUGE influence on all of our lives, we as parents have the right to set the narrative in our homes. This requires modeling by example on our part. We have to remember that we bought and gave these devices (TVs, phones, tablets, computers, etc) to our children. They have the power to suck up a great deal of our time and emotions. Since changes begins from within, we as parents might consider how much we ourselves allow devices to monopolize our time and emotions. Outside of work, when we are home with the children, how much time do we spend passively absorbing content? Are we checking work and personal emails multiple times an hour or watching TV or shows on our phones or tablets, texting friends and family more than 50%, 60% or more of our off work time? Do we bring our devices to the dinner table?
One of the best ways to regain control of the narrative in our homes is to turn off the devices for longer periods of time. Turn off the noise. If we aren’t watching protests and riots and flipping between news channels and uploaded videos on Facebook and Instagram, we can provide ourselves with a much needed mental and emotional break.
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Yes, our children will have interacted with their friends and social media at some point during the day, but what a great opportunity while they are home from school (Covid-19 and summer break) to reduce the time spent on social media and replace the hole with activities that involve interacting with family and physical activity.
This way, when we all convene at the table, we have the emotional and mental bandwidth available to discuss a variety of topics that are meaningful and help bring perspective.
On that note, we can also as a family, change or transition to habits that enhance our mental health. One suggestion is that everyone turn off their devices and leave them in a collective space, not in the bedrooms. We might have to buy old school alarm clocks for every bedroom, but that’s okay. This is especially important for children. Add books to everyone’s room so that they can wind down with reading. There are tons of cheap books at Goodwill or for free at the library. Rather than falling asleep to a video of the latest riot, read.
Here are some great tips of dinner table topics of discussion:
- Latest books being read
- Personal and family values
- Personal and family goals
- Creating a family mission statement that everyone participates in
- Design a family crest
- Plan family outings
The family dinner table is part and parcel of creating untriggerable youths. This is important because we want them to understand that although not everything is within their control, they can indeed control how they respond to people, places and events, at any given time. Sometimes, rather than engaging and thereby giving up control over their emotional freedom, it’s better to disengage and regroup. This is important because it is particularly destabilizing for mental and emotional health for an impressionable, highly hormonal and emotional youth to be 100% tuned in to trauma and chaos that is often sensationalized for click bait and promotional marketing. And at the end of the day, this too shall pass but our children can be effected long term and make decisions about their lives that they will later regret.
Bring it in. Take the reigns. Sit together, eat together, pray together, love one another and come into the circle at the dinner table and beyond. It’s a much better idea than separating, each to their own emotional corner, trauma bonding with social media strangers on personal devices of doom and gloom.