SLOWING FAMILY LIFE DOWN... STARTING WITH THE FAMILY DINNER
So tomorrow marks the beginning of another working year. The Christmas holiday is done and dusted and so begins the cycle of work, school drop offs, lunch boxes, activities, emails to return and appointments to attend. Whilst I do acknowledge that any time of the year is as good as the next to embark on self-improvement, there is something enticing about the ‘newness’ of January. The fresh and unblemished possibilities that come with the start of a new year.
This year I’m jumping head first into supporting the #MakeTime campaign by Australian owned company Steggles. The campaign calls on all Aussies to stop, pause and reclaim some quality time with those that mean the most to us. And really who could not do with a bit more of that in their jam-packed over scheduled lives?
The concept of making a conscious decision to slow down and reconnect with people around us really resonates with my 2019 resolutions - to choose quality over quantity. To ditch instant fashion one-use purchases in favour of good quality materials that will last for decades. To turn down the dial on kids activities, rushing them around because we think it will get the best out of them. To tune in to my children and take interest in their small world without a phone buzzing with work emails in my hand. To carefully select those who mean the most to me in my life and make sure they are aware of it, without trying to please the masses. To minimalise my life, my home and therefore my mind by carefully selecting quality time, relationships, and objects over the bombardment of constant inferior stimulation that modern life has become. To quieten the background noise.
Ok, so some days this aim seems almost impossible for a family living with two working adults, five children in the middle of Sydney (not to mention that 2019 is the year we plan to send ourselves loopy with major house renovations whilst walking the tightrope of toddlers and teenagers). But it needs to be done.
The latest campaign by Steggles calling for a return to family dinners got me thinking - are families really that time poor these days that they don’t eat together? Like passing ships, overtired parents coordinate drop-off and pick-up schedules with precision over synced phone calendars as their children are jostled from after school care to piano practice to footy training. Parents who are forced into working late nights most days of the week, bedrooms bursting at the seams with toys that are not looked at, and children who are screen addicted in their inability to use their creativity to bust any minute of boredom. It’s all part of the “too much-ness” of modern life. The result? Children (and adults) who are permanently exhausted, have little patience and can’t self regulate their emotions.
So over the next few months I am going to be writing and calling for families to make slowing down a priority, starting with the family dinner. To accomplish this, it means making dinner time a priority at least a few times a week, turning down other activities and communicating to the rest of the family that it is important they are present. Here are my top tips for creating quality family time for 2019, starting with #MakingTime for dinner:
1. Involve everyone in the cooking and prep
They may grumble at first but involving children in cooking a meal has endless benefits - not only does it import valuable cooking skills, it provides a sense of pride and investment in the family meal and creates a sense of appreciation for where the meal has come from. Even younger children will love getting involved decorating the table or writing up special menus or place cards.
2. Set regular traditions
Simple rituals like lighting a candle, asking everyone what their favourite part of their day was or taking it turns to serve each other all serve to solidify a sense of belonging. Over time they create strong memories that increase feelings of connectedness between family members.
3. Turn off all screens, phones and distractions
This includes adults who would lead by example. Turning off the TV and sitting around a dinner table sends the message to family members that this time is a priority, and that what they have to contribute to the dinner time is important. It marks a time for everyone’s day to pause, to reconnect and to reflect.
How many times does your family eat dinner together? I would love to hear your thoughts or any other tips you may have on slowing down your busy family life, as I embark on my 2019 resolutions!