Thanksgiving is considered a time of reflection, giving thanks, family togetherness, and, of course, delicious food. But when all the toasts have been made, the plates cleared, and the leftovers tucked away, it can be easy to fall into a state of media mindlessness—dozing off in front of the TV, checking cell phones for scores and status updates, and scrolling through endless tweets about just how much food everybody ate.
Thanksgiving break offers an opportunity to do just that, break the usual habits and get back to reflecting and connecting. Make a conscious effort to turn off your media and engage with your loved ones. Whether your teen is home from college, your middle schoolers are on school break, your toddler is bored in the house, or you have extended family visiting, there are great activities that you can enjoy together:
- Enjoy some media-free time. One skill that has suffered in our “constantly connected" media-driven culture is the ability to sit quietly and think. A global experiment in turning off electronics for 24 hours raised loud and angry objections from the 1,000 college students across 5 continents… but 2 weeks later, they realized how rich their lives, relationships, and internal worlds were. “I’ve lived with my best friends for 3 years – this is one of the best days we’ve spent together.” See how long you can go without – and see what you discover in yourself and those you love.
- Get outside. Toss a football with your son, all too soon he won’t be interested in playing catch anymore. Take a walk hand-in hand with your daughter. Just sit and watch the lengthening shadows dapple the last few leaves on the trees.
- Have family game time. Play cards, board games, or (after the turkey is digested) active games such as Twister, where you jostle, laugh, succeed and fail as a family.
- Be spontaneous. Do something that you don’t have time to do in your regular schedule, like visit a museum. From local town attractions to larger city institutions, many communities have exhibits that are geared for family enjoyment. Surprise yourself, from learning about your town’s history to looking at the stars, museums offer opportunities to be together that is both enlightening and fun!
- Eat, cook, and clean up as a family. While the big turkey dinner gets all the attention, there will be other opportunities to eat together as a family. Flex your creative muscles to come up with clever reincarnations out of leftovers. Be Iron Chefs and see who can come up with the most creative dish. If you are not already doing it, this is a great time to start the daily tradition of having a sit-down family dinner – the single most successful strategy for avoiding obesity, but also a host of physical and mental health problems. But leave the TV off and the phones in another room – the benefits of the meal come from focusing on each other and what you have to share.
- If you use media, use it together. Watching TV, checking email, surfing the web, texting, tweeting, updating, and gaming can distance us from each other, but they don’t have to. During the long Thanksgiving weekend, try using media as a family activity where everyone participates. Watch your college student’s latest YouTube video, see a family-friendly movie, or play a video game that everyone can enjoy (just don’t expect to beat the kids… ever). This can be a great time to model mindful media use as part of as healthy, diverse life and spend time together in ways that are healthy and enjoyable.
Hug your kids, eat well, enjoy your media and use them wisely,