Friends, over the last few years, my husband and I have taken on more and more work, thanks to our online businesses. And listen…I’m not complaining, but it can be a struggle to unplug and get back to reality when you have countless deadlines looming over your head. Stress is higher today than ever before, and that’s why it’s so CRITICAL for families to take the moments they have meals together and really reconnect.
I just took part in a two-week experiment and it was amazing! The Mealtime Movement is doing some awesome things, like getting more people to share more connected meals, more often! I challenge you to do the same.
The Expert Tips To Implement:
EXPERT TIP 1: Stop the “Why,” from Laura Landry Meyer, Ph.D., CFLE
She says: “Why” questions often put a person in a defensive mode. Instead of “Why didn’t you tell me about the situation on the school bus?” ask “What are some reasons you didn’t tell me about the situation on the school bus?”
We love the way Dr. Meyer offers us an opportunity to spin language and allow it to give us new ways to open up our communication. Please make an effort to STOP ASKING “WHY” and ASK “WHAT” during this time period.
EXPERT TIP 2: Try a talking circle, from Laura Landry Meyer, Ph.D., CFLE
She says: The Navajo tradition of a talking circle, in which one person shares their rose, bud and thorn for the day, is a simple way to connect around a meal.
- Rose: something that makes you happy
- Bud: something you are looking forward to
- Thorn: something that is bothering you
Family rituals create bonds. We encourage you to try this new family exercise for two weeks. And keep trying. It is often the small things that become large emotional connections for families.
EXPERT TIP 3: Open it all up, from Norman Shub, Clinical Director, Gestalt Associates
He says: Want your kids to share with you? Share with them. Vulnerability is taught through osmosis. Kids are fascinated by hearing parents talk about their struggles and mistakes, so share yours to start a conversation about a difficult topic.
Air your dirty laundry during these two weeks. Be more open with your family. Tell stories of the past. Pick a day that you tell a family love story. Something shocking about your past. A strange tale. Anything.
Just remember: The goal is to have a conversation, not turn it into a lesson. Talk to each other.
What Did I Learn?
The Mealtime Movement believes we’re all better when we eat together. My family LOVED the idea of this movement, and we were totally on board to give it a shot…ESPECIALLY since I’m pretty strict about HOW we break bread as a family. Typically, we eat dinner at the dinner table—no questions asked. We NEVER TYPICALLY eat in the car or on the go, and we never eat inappropriate food as a meal. I’m a stickler when it comes to food. But I loosened up a bit and relaxed and let our schedules define our cuisine, and I learned a thing or two about going with the flow.
This also gave us plenty of time to implement the expert tips. At every meal, we took the time to talk to one another and share. It wasn’t a one-way street anymore as it typically was prior to this experiment. It wasn’t me just drilling my children about their day at school. It became me telling them the good, the bad and the “could have been better.” My children really enjoyed learning about all the things I did when they were out of the house. Our circle of sharing became something that everyone looked forward to!
Throughout the experiment, I also let go of some control habits I was holding onto with my children. I let go of the fact that my 3 year old needs a sippy cup. And you know what? Caleb did great!
I also let go of the need to make my youngest son always use a fork. Who needs utensils anyway? Meals became less about function and more about memory making. I didn’t care about how we got through it…I just cared about how we all felt once we were done. Full and complete—inside and out.
My older two wanted to start making their own cereal in the morning. It gave me some extra time of my day back and it showed me that Liam actually really liked blackberries! Every time the kids did something out of the box like this, we tried to relate it to a story from our past. If he put blueberries in his milk, then I would tell him about a time that I did something similar as a child. Walking down memory lane was a real treat for us all!
The kids really enjoyed learning more about my husband and me. We never really brought up our own childhood memories before, and I’m so happy this experiment gave us the opportunity to do so. The kids actually got a chance to get to know their parents. Of course they KNOW US, but as adults and in our current states. But my three little ones really didn’t have a clear picture of who I was as a child, and I know it was really fun for them to create that picture in their minds.
When time permitted, we headed out for a little treat. No one ever complained about being away from our kitchen. And I was happy about not having to clean up the mess.
I also found that talking about difficult subjects—like troubling grades—was easiest when we were in a clean environment. When the kids were at a fun restaurant that they liked, it was easier to bring up these subjects because everyone felt like they were in a good place. If I think about it, I can completely understand this. When you feel like you are having a treat, you tend to relax. I’m not saying I was catching my family off guard with tough topics…but I was catching my family off guard with tough topics—and it worked!
In fact, everyone got used to eating in the car—something we NEVER USED TO DO, EVER. And when I say NEVER, I MEAN NEVER. I’m really not into this. I guess I should add “weekly car wash” to my to-do list, because I think something died in our backseat. 🙂 But loosening up and leaning into my children with an afternoon snack brought on laughs and stories that we wouldn’t have had an opportunity to hear otherwise.
During the experiment, I traveled quite a bit. That meant that I ate alone in hotels, which I’m unfortunately used to doing because of my job. It was hard this time around because I was having so much fun trying out new things and being so plugged in with my kids. I really missed our little conversations. Being away from my clan after being so connected really made me realize and appreciate what I have waiting for me at home. For that, I am forever grateful.
Me not being such a control freak allowed my family to have that many more laughs and tell that many more stories. I wasn’t focusing on keeping in the herd or making sure my tablecloth was kept neat and tidy. I was just being present with my kids and enjoying them as they enjoy us—every moment of their lives.
And when I wasn’t on top of them so much, they started to do for one another. It was a really sweet thing to see. It also lightened the load up for Mom. WOW! That is possible? Who knew?
All in all, the experiment was a success for me. Mealtime is the most critical time of the day for families to connect to one another. It’s when boundaries are let down. It’s when bonds are formed. It’s where memories are made. And how lucky are we that we get to eat with our children multiple times a day and get to have open communication with them about whatever we’d like?! If we wanted to talk about our upcoming travels, we did, and if we wanted to talk about what kind of movies we wanted to watch over the weekend, we did that too. But I found that the longer this experiment went on, the more my children wanted to talk about personal subjects. I really cherished every moment! I welcomed every topic, and I went to sleep every night with a grin on my face because I spent a day getting to know my family just a little bit more. Isn’t that what life is all about?
The Mealtime Movement experiment taught my family how to reconnect during dinner and has forever changed the way we will break bread with one another.
I would love for you to take the Mealtime Movement challenge! Are you up for the task? See what you and your family learn about each other after the full two weeks. Check back with me once the experiment is done. I would love to hear how you do!
*This is a sponsored post. All opinions are my own.