Help Get Your “i-Kids” Back to the Holiday Table!

Written by Carew Papritz for

kids-on-phone-at-tableHave you experienced a holiday dinner when it seems like the kids are more thankful for their phones than their family?  With kids glued to their apps, screens, texts, and videos, we’ve finally reached the modern equivalent of that age-old parenting adage, “Be seen but not heard.”  Now our kids are both not seen and not heard.   Is that what we want our holiday dinner?  Is that the family tradition we want to leave them?

In our 24/7 world where we all seem to be living past the speed of life and everything is so convenient, so easy, and so very quick, traditions are not fast. They do not change overnight and for good reason. They provide history to our lives and history gives our lives meaning.  Traditions also give us memories.  Memories that bind families together.  And memories are the milestones of our life upon which we remember how deeply we have lived.

Traditions are also a vital part of our legacy to our children.  When I wrote my inspirational book, The Legacy Letters, I realized life was not about getting to the end and then figuring out what I should have done better. The great circus trick of living life to the fullest is to “live your legacy now—not later.” And that’s how our family traditions should be—living in the moment so the moment will last forever.

So, let’s buck the tide of technology taking over our holidays and make sure, with our help and guidance, that our kids truly become part of our family traditions.   Let’s start with that most simple and basic of holiday traditions—the holiday dinner.

Several Thanksgivings ago, I had a good friend and his family over to share in our festivities.

After dinner, our kids started taking the plates from the dinner table to wash them in the kitchen.  And then their kids got into the act.  Our friends were shocked that their kids were doing the dishes.  I said, “I’m not going to overturn 10,000 years of tradition.  I had to do the dishes when I was a kid.  I’m not taking away that gift from my kids!”

What is the “gift of participation?”   Let the kids “get in the way!”  Let them help make the family bean dish.  Or the turkey sage dressing.  Or the marshmallow Jello dessert.  Let them find a desert or recipe that they can make.  They can help to start their own recipe tradition.  Have them prep the food, cook, clean, setup the tables and chairs, and set the table.  Have ALL the kids involved.  That’s the beauty of peer pressure and it works.  (And it keeps the moans and groans to a minimum.)

Next, let them know how the holiday dinner works.  It’s sort of like a wedding.  If they know what’s expected of them throughout the afternoon and evening, then nothing comes as a surprise.  Let them know the traditions of participation.  Let them know about how all the kids set the table.  How everyone says some sort of blessing or thanks.  Let them know they’ll all be doing dishes because that’s what you did as a kid.  Let them know about the family tradition of a walk after dinner, and then cutting up the pumpkin pie.  Or serving up the marshmallow Jello dessert.

Lastly, and it’s simple.  Create what I call an “e-Free” zone and let the kids know where and when that is.  The holiday dinner table is absolutely an “e-Free” zone.  Nothing that emits electrons near your food.  No cell phones or TV (yes, and that means the football game).  If you want to create an “e-Free” zone on your traditional walk after dinner, then do.  And let all the adults know about the “e-Free” zone too.  Let the kids police the adults—the kids will love it.   I think this “e-Free” zone is important because it’s a technology time out—and it can be extended to other parts of your life and the life of your kids!

This gift of tradition—of participation—is truly a legacy gift.  In many ways, we take tradition for granted.  That’s part of its beauty.  But let’s make sure we allow our kids to fully participate.  It’s so easy for them to just reap only the rewards of the holiday table.  But easy isn’t always better.  Some things, like raising a family and creating traditions are anything but easy and quick.  And that’s a good thing.

Written by Carew Papritz

Author of the award-winning, inspirational bestseller,

“The Legacy Letters”  ©2016

Author Bio: Carew Papritz, also known as The Cowboy Philosopher, is the author of the multi-award winning inspirational book “The Legacy Letters.” This best-selling author left his career as a filmmaker in Hollywood, and returning to his ranching roots, worked as a cowboy on a cattle ranch in the Southwest where he began writing his book. “The Legacy Letters,” though fictional, has also won acclaim as a life lessons book for all generations, gaining the distinction of being the only book in publishing history to win awards in both fiction and non-fiction categories. A Renaissance Man in an age that lauds the specialist, The Huffington Post says Papritz “intrigues and enlightens, charms and catalyzes change for every reader.”