During the school holidays there can be so much happening, but sometimes we actually have a chance to sit down and have a meal as a family without the stress of needing to run off to sport or a meeting. Perhaps you can take this as an opportunity to try something new as a family.
The following is an extract from a mindful schools article
Four Mindful Activities for the Family Dinner Table
Starting at the heart of family life, the dinner table is an engaging and fun place to bring mindfulness into family life in a practical way. One of the foundations of our family program is what we call “Family Check-ins”––connecting activities that allow us to bring our full attention to one another and practice deep listening. Our full presence is the greatest gift of love we can offer one another. Here are some tips and activities for bringing this into mealtime. We encourage families to play around with these, pick the ones that speak most easily to your family dynamics, and adjust as you wish.
1) Practice Jedi Listening.
You might explore with your family what it means to be a ‘Jedi’ listener. Ask your children, “When you are speaking, what do you want from me as a listener? Do you want me to be thinking about my food? About what I’m going to say next? About the meeting I had this morning? Or do you want me to just let that all go and give you my full attention? I am going to do my best to be a master listener … a Jedi listener. Can you too?” Variations: A+ listener, super-hero listener, etc.
2) Settle in with Sound.
We have found that tuning into sounds is a particularly great tool to help children (and adults!) pause and settle in. Upon sitting down for dinner, have your child lead a ‘mindful moment’ by ringing a bell or chime – anything that offers a pleasant, vibrating sound. Your child can ask everyone to raise their hand when they can’t hear the sound anymore. If you don’t have a chime, everyone can simply take one minute or less to close their eyes or look down and count the number of sounds they hear, in their body, in the room, and outside the room. Expanded practice: Share around the following questions. What sounds did you hear? Were any particularly pleasant or unpleasant? Do you have a favorite sound? A least favorite sound? Are there sounds that remind you of home? School? Work? Nature? Food?
3) See the Universe on Your Plate.
Each family member chooses one piece of food on their plate for this activity. Explore all the things that made it possible for us to have this morsel sitting on our plate, ready for us to eat. The more that is shared, the more the entire universe unfolds before us, right on our plate – the workers, the sun, the moon, the clouds, the soil. What is in the soil? Worms, bugs, fossils, eons of plants, dinosaurs, bones. This is a fun activity for kids and is great for bringing alive the truth of interconnection and interdependence with our world.
4) Check-In with a Simple Question.
Having a simple question that speaks to each of our experience is a great way to be present for each other amidst the busy-ness of family life. What do each of us most fundamentally need and want? Love and attention. Kindness and presence. Most of our lives are packed full, with many demands on our time. Just pausing to give each other our presence is a powerful gift. We are frequently given feedback by both children and parents that doing these Family Check-in activities is a highlight for them. Below are some of our favorites. Tip: these are also wonderful questions for bedtime.
- Highs & Lows: Share your highs and lows of the day or the week.
- Gratitude: Share three things you are grateful for. It can be a thing, person, animal, or activity.
- Sharing appreciations: Each family member goes around the table and shares one thing they appreciate about each person.
- Bucket filling: How did you fill someone’s ‘bucket’ today? How did someone else fill your bucket?
Tip: Use a Talking Stick.
Dinnertime in Jen’s family can be a noisy affair, with people at times talking over or past one another to get the word in edgewise. If this is true to your experience, you might consider using the talking stick with these Family Check-ins. Jen has had good success with this. Any item will do––a pen is usually handiest, but it can be something more meaningful. Whoever is holding the stick is the speaker, with everyone else a Jedi listener.
Once you’ve experimented a bit, have your children come up with Family Check-Ins of their own. When we pass our children the torch, we are often amazed and humbled by the creative ideas they have!
Pastoral Care Worker at HCEPS Wednesday and Friday