Sunday, October 22, 2017

Making the Dinner Table Family Time

This is a sponsored post on behalf of U.S. Cellular.

I think most of us have always thought that sharing a meal together is good for spirit, brain, and health of all family members.  The Family Dinner Project has confirmed that.  October is Eat Better, Eat Together Month, but I really think every month of the year this concept should be practiced.  In fact, I often stay up very late until my husband arrives home from work for us to have dinner together.  (We do not have children, so this is possible.) 

When he works late, the responsibility for fixing dinner is on me.  While I use my cookbook collection (remember those?) my husband, on his nights to cook, prefers using apps.  It's not uncommon for me to wander into the kitchen and I ask what is for dinner and see him searching Yummly on his iPhone 8.  Sometimes he uses the AllRecipes Dinner Spinner to seek out something interesting to cook for dinner.  (Yes, ladies, you can be jealous that my husband considers cooking a hobby!  I realize how lucky I am!) 

Although we don't live in an area where it is available, we have traveled to places where we might be tired after a day of traveling.  When we are in that situation,  apps such as GrubHub are helpful to get food delivered to us.  Also OpenTable is easy to make a dinner reservation at local restaurants. Because we tend to eat at a lot of casual dining places while on the road, it is easy for us to find what is about 20 minutes down the road and place our dinner order online and it be ready for us when we arrive.  We have done this from sub shops to pizza places.  Because U.S. Cellular's network is nationwide, it can make a long day of travel a bit better when our food is ready for us. 

Once you have the meal, be it home cooked or ordered, it's important for everyone to unplug.  My husband and I have a rule that there are no electronics during family time.  Since I work at home, this is a bit more relaxed for me (and for his relatives while visiting because they are on call at a moment's notice), but we encourage everyone to put down their phone and not be playing games, texting, or doing any non-essential work during times we are spending with people.   Powering off devices might be fantastic for some families (but there are some adults, like doctors, who might need to be reached at all times.  My in-laws are not doctors but they are even more on call than physicians.)  For those of us who do not have a job like that, turning off all devices -- or even setting them in another room silenced while we enjoy dinner is a great idea.  That way no one is antsy to answer texts or check social media when you hear the notification come in.  (Don't forget to turn off the TV as well!)

A good way to open up discussion between children / teens who have mobile devices and their parents is the U.S. Cellular Phone Agreement.  It is free to anyone who wants to download it, and helps facilitate a talk about this difficult subject.  It also has a section where you as a parent can make some of the promises you ask your child to make, such as no phones during dinner or driving! 

A few apps parents might want to look into are Offtime and Breakfree which remind smartphone users to unplug at certain times.  Be it for family time, homework time, or sleep hours, it is sometimes great for mental health to just take an electronics detox.  I don't know about others, but I sometimes feel on call 24 hours a day.  One night I received a work text at 1 in the morning, and another just six hours later.  Needless to say I didn't have a good night's sleep that night!

Another way to limit phone usage is ParentKit which allows you to set limits as to when children can use devices, age appropriate games, sites, and even apps. 

Cell phones are a wonderful way to keep in touch with others.  But it's also important to have a balance between electronic connectedness and family time.  It's difficult to do, but it is possible. 

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