Having a separate “kids’ table” has become a long-standing Thanksgiving tradition. Even though it seems more convenient to keep the children separate, there are a host of good reasons to mix them in with the adults.
Sure, we get that you’d like some deep and meaningful adult conversations without bread rolls and cranberry sauce flung your way. It can be distracting trying to keep your rowdy, hyper children in line, thus making it tempting to banish them to a small card table, far far away.
However, there are countless benefits to including the children in the family meal, having them sit amongst all of the generations. You might be surprised by how important it makes the kids feel, encouraging better behavior. Plus, it allows all ages to mingle, breaking past generational barriers.
Children Feel Included
There’s something about getting shoved aside, pushed into the corner, given flimsy plastic plates and cups, while watching the grown-ups clank wine glasses and eat with fancy silverware. Kids feel like they aren’t as important, or that they’re being ignored.
This can often lead to kids acting up, whining, fighting with siblings, and trying to gain the adults’ attention.
By bringing the kids to the “adult” table, you basically give them a confidence boost—suddenly they feel important. It can be scary having kids use fancy silverware and China plates, but as long as you discuss the importance of treating everything with care, you should be good. And if in doubt, you can give them regular plates or even gold-trimmed plastic ware. Make sure to have some sparkling water or juice for them to drink in their wine glasses.
The main point is to ensure the kids feel included. This alone can shift their behavior, making the dinner more manageable than you might have imagined.
All Generations Get to Mingle
Often kids are off doing their own thing, running wild with their cousins, and not reaching out to their older relatives. Or their heads might be buried in phones and devices for the entire day. But sitting next to Great-Grandpa or Aunt Betsy at the dinner table presents the perfect opportunity for swapping stories.
It’s best to mix things up, not seating two kids next to each other. If the kids complain, you can always offer the kids’ table as an alternative. You’ll be surprised at how quickly they accept their seating arrangement, knowing how exciting it is to sit at the big table with the entire family.
Conversations Stay More in Control
Let’s face it, the holidays can be a stressful time for some families. Perhaps there are stark differences in everyone’s political or religious views. Or maybe there are dramas and wrongdoings from the past—enough to turn a peaceful dinner into a wild, unruly, aggressive food fight. It can be hard to navigate strong opinions, feelings, and emotions—especially if alcohol is involved.
Having kids around can help keep the conversations more. . . well, PG. You’ll be forced to talk about things that are age-appropriate, keeping the conversations from drifting off into whether you love or hate the current president.
You can always save the more intense conversations for later, after everyone is waddling around like stuffed turkeys. It’s much harder for conversations to escalate into nastiness when everyone is sedated with an overfull belly.
Everyone Is Encouraged to Help
When you bring the kids to the main table, you’re showing them they’re an equal part of the family. Ultimately, this means they’re fully expected to help out with setting the table and cleaning up, just like the adults.
You can delegate the chores based on age and ability, having younger kids fold napkins, others set out plates, and older kids fill water glasses. Believe us, kids will be way more excited about setting a beautiful table with glistening China as opposed to setting out kids’ plates and cups at the dinky “kids-only” table.
It might seem scary to throw your kids right into the middle of the main Thanksgiving table. But we say try it! You might be surprised at how well your kids behave and how much closer everyone feels afterwards.
Make room for highchairs if you have babies or toddlers. And try to start the meal with something that brings everyone together, such as holding hands, saying a prayer, or having one of the kids read a Thanksgiving poem.
In the end, this day is all about family. And kids are totally a part of the family, too.