We all have stories about sitting at the kids’ table at Grandma’s house while enjoying a holiday meal. It can be nice for parents to have a break, but sharing a family meal and the conversation that flows may be more beneficial for the kids than you know.
Enjoying a Thanksgiving meal often involves multiple families with people who range in age from babies to great-great-grandparents. Sometimes sitting at separate tables is a necessity due to space constraints — other times the “kids” are shooed off to a table in an adjoining room simply to make the meal more pleasant for the adults. What would happen if you banished the kids’ table?
Is the family dinner still important? >>
Why would I do that?
Involve them on all levels
How can you involve your children even more in the Thanksgiving meal? “Involve the children in planning, preparing and serving meals, thus building teamwork and cooperation,” says Leah Davies, M.Ed. “Listen to their meal suggestions and try to make eating together fun. Invite them to help create memorable holiday foods and decorations.” The more you can include the younger members of your family in planning for the holiday, the greater the impact will be on them.
Family mealtimes have been consistently shown to benefit children, but why ruin Thanksgiving? The adults may wish for a peaceful meal, but there may be a bigger benefit to a multi-age dinner table. Including kids at the Thanksgiving table may not be for everyone. Nelson Branco, M.D. says, “But it’s hard to overlook the overwhelming research on the positive effects of family dinners on children’s diet, social development and sense of connection with their parents and siblings.”
Bringing together multiple generations of your family adds another level to the holiday that is sometimes lost on this generation. “This is a time to practice manners — I can guarantee that you will have at least one conversation about the appropriateness of potty talk at the dinner table, and if [you] say it enough times, they may start to use a napkin to wipe their mouth instead of a sleeve,” says Branco. Giving the younger members of the family a chance to step it up a notch and dine with the adults is an opportunity that doesn’t happen often.
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Ideas for making it work
If you just can’t picture Thanksgiving without a kids’ table, we have a few ways you can incorporate the kids into the celebration without driving Grandma crazy.
- Seating chart — Before the gathering, spend some time thinking about seating arrangements for dinner. Does your nephew love to fish? Seat him next to Uncle Bob, who spends his weekends on the lake. Your daughter who loves to read would love a bit of conversation about her favorite book with her aunt, the librarian. By alternating children with adults, you are opening the door for discussions that span generations and bring your family closer.
- Dessert only — If you can’t quite commit to dining with the kiddos, consider breaking up the kids’ table for dessert. Even just a bit of time spent mingling with the adults in the family offers the kids the chance to practice their social skills and get to know their adult family members a bit better.
The Thanksgiving meal is an opportunity to spend time with all members of your family. How will you involve your kids this year?