When I was growing up my family turned the television on early in the morning. The TV had a prominent place in the middle of the living room. The furniture was positioned in a semi-circle around the television so that everyone could see with an unobstructed view.
The problem was that the TV was like that friend who sucks up all of the energy in the room. Instead of talking to each other we were all watching TV and occasionally talking to each other but only briefly because we didn’t want to miss anything on the television.
During the holidays, we filled our plates and ate watching TV. I felt empty, even lonely. We didn’t talk to each other we watched TV.
I grew up, moved away and came home for the holidays and the TV was still on, year after year. Then I got older, old enough for my dad, mom, and my brother and sister passed unexpectedly.
That’s when I realized how much precious time we lost in front of the TV. We took family time for granted. My dad’s last words before he died really hurt, “I wish I had just spent more time with you kids.”
At the end he realized how much precious time with his kids he had squandered. He worked long hours and came home tired, and ate dinner in front of the TV.
One night when I was 8 years old I remember walking back and forth in front of the television to get his attention. I hadn’t seen him all day. He yelped, “Get out of the way,” obviously irritated.
As a therapist, life coach, relationship coach and career coach through the years I have heard our families scenario echoed many times. Fred was 72 years old and came to me for help with family feuds in his family business.
He was horrified that family dinner’s at his son’s house with his 3 children didn’t exist. His son came home late and flopped down in his recliner watching TV. His kids tried to play. He pushed them away.
During the holidays his son watched football. This grandfather started cooking dinner’s and setting the table requesting everyone sit at the table so he could have family time.
In today’s world it’s electronics in general whether it be cellphones, computer’s or the latest gadgets. Each in their own way can steal away precious family time when we are unaware.
If our stories sound like your family, there are a few things you can do to take back your relationships and festive gathering with family and friends.
Make your Dining Room the Focal Point
Set the dining room table and ask to have the television turned off and cell phones put away so everyone can have a sit down together. Turn on some music in the background. Ask each other questions. Ask the elders for childhood memories.
Set the Mood
A great way to set the mood is by dimming some lights, maybe lighting some candles, having beautiful flowers, and putting on some holiday music. Make sure the TV is off when guests arrive.
Ask your TV or cell phone fanatic for support?
If your mate watches football or has a cell phone attached to his hand this is a sticky question. You can ask if your mate could record the game to play back after the guests are gone or put the phone away for a while.
Advertisers have stolen the presence of many family member’s by putting the game in the middle of family holidays. Social media has done the same. Don’t fall for it. Take back your holiday gatherings.
It can also help to talk to your mate or family members before guests arrive. Ask for support. Say, “This is special time with family, I would like to try something new and turn off the electronics and turn on some music.
Donna LeBlanc, M.Ed., NYMHC is a licensed psychotherapist, life coach and career coach. She is a best-selling author of two books, The Passion Principle: Discover Your Passion Signature and the Secrets to Successful Relationships in Life, Love and Work and You Can’t Quit Til’ You Know What’s Eating you (HCI). She has a private practice in New York City. She can be reached at [email protected]
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