It’s that time of year again when families get together for summer outings, cookouts and reunions. Under ideal circumstances, social gatherings can be a lot of fun and the source of memories for years to come. Making sure those memories are good ones should be your top concern. With a little thought you can make your family gatherings a big success and improve communication by the way you arrange the physical environment and the activities you provide.
How your family members and guests are seated makes a big difference in how they interact. You can set the tone and promote positive interactions by arranging tables to encourage healthy discussions and use place settings to encourage positive interactions.
- Arrange several small tables to seat more than eight people, instead of one long table to seat the entire gang. This promotes more intimate and personal conversations. According to Seats and Stools, an online retailer specializing in quality chairs and barstools, this arrangement allows guests to carry on a conversation while including everyone at the table.
- Arrange place settings at the end of long table for fewer than eight people so they are grouped together instead of allowing them to spread themselves out over the entire length of the table, suggests Seats and Stools.
- Place a conversationalist beside someone who is shy or reserved to encourage conversation.
- Avoid sitting strong personalities next to each other as this often results in conflict.
Fun and games keep the party going, but make sure there is something for everyone. While Aunt Betsy may not be up to a game of hopscotch, she may be a whiz at word games. Consider the age and interests of all guests and try to offer activities to meet all age groups.
Whether you are serving burgers, potluck or some other family favorite, keep in mind any special dietary needs of your guests. This is especially true of allergies or dietary restrictions. Although you don’t need to tailor your entire menu for those with special needs, make sure they have at least one or two options. For example, while you don’t need to provide an assortment of sugar-free items for those with diabetes, a sugar-free drink and fresh fruit as one of the dessert options is always appreciated.
Being conscious of special needs of your guests is part of your job at the host of any event – even when the event is an informal family gathering. Consider the age and physical condition of all your guests when planning your family gathering. If it will be outdoors, consider the amount direct sunlight on the seating areas. While the younger crowd may enjoy partying in the sun, elderly guests and babies are likely to enjoy a quiet spot in the shade. If it’s inside, consider how easy it is to move about between the tables. Consider those with limited mobility or who need assistive devices.
Follow the same guidelines for seating guests during activities or social time as those outlined for dinnertime. Although there are no guarantees that Aunt Bertha or Uncle Joe won’t do their best to monopolize the limelight, with proper seating and appropriate activities to involve everyone, you will gain some control of how your guests interact.