As December is upon us, we’re all getting ready to celebrate the big day – perhaps with a turkey (or a tofu) and a tipple or two. But a recent study suggests ‘tis not the season to text at the table – and that we’d all be much happier if we were to ditch the tech and focus on quality family time instead.

The study into British family eating habits revealed an ambivalent relationship between what we prefer when it comes to dining, and what we do in reality. When asked where they enjoyed eating the most, one in three chose the traditional dinner tables – and 70% go on to say that they think family relationships are positively affected by a traditional Christmas meal, as is a child’s development (33%) and overall mental health (28%).

Despite this, the survey of more than 2,000 UK residents commissioned by furniture retailer Furniture Village suggested that what we know in theory, is not always practiced. Even though we know the benefits of eating at the dinner table, the majority of UK families (41%) admitted to settling the kids in front of TV while they ate. As well, 54% admitted choosing TV over conversations to be the top reason they don’t eat regularly at the dining table, followed by time spent on smartphones and other tech (42%).

Commenting on this trend, family therapist Dr Renee Singh says: “Sitting around a dining table without digital distractions can provide an opportunity for the whole family to talk and engage. Children can learn good table manners and the art of having a conversation whilst eating their Christmas meal and can also develop an appreciation for good food.”

So with that in mind, if you don’t want tech to take over the Christmas dinner tradition, here’s what to do:
Keep the television turned off: maybe you’ve got the extended family over for Christmas and want to make sure it isn’t an awkward atmosphere? If that’s the case, put some festive songs on in the background instead, giving you a bit of atmosphere without taking away from conversations.

Create a phone-free zone: This Christmas, ask everyone to leave their phones far away from the table for the meal, so that there’s no digital distraction to ruin the festive chats and bonding. As well, parents need to model appropriate behavior (it’s bad manners to text at the table), so there’s no point insisting your children can’t use tech if you’re posting a social media status at the same time.

Promote festive fun: Instead, keep mealtime conversation fun and interesting for the whole family with appropriate activities. Sing that song, pull that cracker and play that game of ‘Guess Who?’ – and you just might find that nobody is missing tech much at all.

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