Stepfamily experts agree that the more a family spends time together at the dinner table, the more opportunities they have to communicate and get along better. This is very true, but did you know that seating arrangements make a huge difference in the attitudes and behaviors during a meal?
When I was single, I considered meal time special and required of my two children that we eat together as a family. Sitting down at the table provided an opportunity for me to connect with my children. I sat at the head of the table and my son sat at the opposite end, with my daughter sitting on my left. Our seating arrangement allowed full conversation between the three of us.
In preparation for re-marriage and being excited about having family meals together, we re-arranged the dining room by moving the china cabinet, adding the extension leaf and two additional chairs to the dining room table. On weekdays, there were only four of us at the table, but during visitation weekend, the table was set to accommodate seven. The dining room table came with six chairs, so we brought in a folding chair from the card table set so that we could all sit together. Because the extra chair was awkward and smaller, I volunteered to sit in it so no one would feel like an outcast. We placed my chair in the spot closest to the kitchen, which was next to my husband.
Traditional table seating for families usually places the father and the mother at the heads of both ends of the table (king and queen model) with the children in the middle. I was excited to have my husband sit at the head of the table, but having to sit in the extra chair on visitation weekends caused us to deviate from this model. I was okay about not sitting in the queen's chair as long as our children were happy.
At mealtime, I observed odd behavior amongst our daughters. Our two "baby girls" were rushing to the dinner table to claim the chair closest to mine. Based on which one got there first, the other had a silent attitude during the meal. I couldn't quite figure out what was going on at first. I was more focused on not putting one of the kids in the "extra" chair and neglected to see the dynamics going on regarding seating arrangements. We soon realized that my daughter wanted to sit next to me, and my stepdaughter wanted to sit next to her father. With our current seating arrangement, we would always have a winner and a loser. Seating didn't seem to matter much to the boys, so we switched my husband's daughter with one of the boys. Suddenly meals became more enjoyable for everyone.
It's funny how such small things can make such a major difference! In todays fast pace world, families rarely sit down for a meal together. Parents and children are eating on the go and at the counter in front of the television, barely talking to one another. If you are currently not eating together as a family, try to have at least three meals together a week. I actually read a study that indicates children who eat with their parents do better in school than children who do not. The next time your family sits down for a meal, look at the dynamics around your table. Do you need to make changes in your seating arrangements? If so, go for it. Then you can eat, drink and be merry!
Janice R Love, Author
First Lady, Mom, Stepmom and Divorce Ministry Coach