Talking around the family dinner table has always been a favourite part of our day – and a significant one in the teaching and training of our children. Dinner time is not only a time for nutrition, but our kids learn their table manners and courtesies, they learn to have conversation and include others, they grow in their general knowledge as they glean from others who know different things than they know and they connect with each other, strengthening relationships.
I have found though that it is all so easy to focus on the food and getting the meal over and done with. When I have something in mind for the family to talk about, we have a much better time around the table. I don’t always intentionally think about dinner conversation before we sit down, but I also have my go-to prompts that help direct, or re-direct, family talk.
Ask a question:
• How was your Day
• What do you have happening tomorrow
• How Can I help you
• What are you reading at the moment
• What goal are you working towards
The purpose with these types of conversations is to connect with your kids, actually, for everyone around the table to connect. When we were homeschooling, and all learning together, we rarely had these conversations at the dinner table, unless it was to bring Daddy into the loop. We already knew these things because we were all doing them! But as my kids have grown older, and their lives are broader than what is going on in our home, these prompts play a bigger part in our together time.
Introduce a Topic:
• Something you’ve seen, read, or thought about (Bible, books, movies, TV, internet)
• A news or current affairs topic – ask what the Christians response needs to be
• Discuss the sermon you all heard last week
• Talk about a character trait you can be working on
The key here is to let your children have a voice – they need to be comfortable in expressing their opinion, their concerns, their understandings without fear of being knocked down, ignored or criticized. Their opinions and reasoning may differ to yours – don’t take it personally. But, our children also need to learn to support those opinions and to accept encouragement to think deeper about things.
• Plan a family activity
• A n evening with friends
• A camping trip, weekend away
• An extended holiday
• Plan a project you are working on together
Creating family memories is an important part of being a family – and as our kids grow older we can include them in the planning. Working together towards a project or event not only give opportunity to work together, but different kids skills will shine in different situations. For example: Jessica is great with the planning and the detail, Nomi will bring a burst of the unusual or creative, Josh will bring an energy and get the job done and Daniel will see glitches and problems to be solved. They can all work together to get it done. When our kids are involved in the planning of a family event it really does become a family event.
Do an activity together:
• Write a story together – we use Rory Cubes (a game where you throw dice and are given story prompts)
• Share a video clip (Our kids love Blimey Cow but we often share poignant clips as well)
• Show and Tell for any project that has been completed
• Do impromptu speeches (Google Toastmasters topic list for lots of ideas)
• Read aloud – you can read a chapter book/novel, or a non-fiction book that increases a particular knowledge (like prayer, critical thinking, being a missionary, handling money, using the internet etc)
• Play a board game
Now that our kids are older we often do something while we eat dinner though I often tweak the menu so that it can be a one bowl/fork meal, or finger food. When my kids were younger we would eat dinner and chat, and then have an activity. Family time changes as the kids grow older.
Simply Laugh together:
Chatter and laugher often evolve into a conversation – it may turn to something serious, or it may just be banter – reliving funny family moment, or shared experiences.
That being said, often when conversation gets pointless, aimless and meaningless (and that does happen) someone will say “Pleeease, can we have a card!” The Art of Conversation is one of our favourite things to bring to the dinner table. Though we only do it every so often. A box of cards that gives you conversation prompts (and there are many different kits like this on the market). TAOC is intended to be a game, where you learn to listen and ask questions, and share the conversation. We try and do these things but we don’t follow the rules, because we are already good talkers we just lack ideas to talk about at times!
Final encouragement: It takes time
Not only does it take time to prepare and bring something intentionally to the table but it takes time to talk. You may be able to sit your kids at the table, ask them to be quiet and just eat the food. Dinner can be over in 10-30 minutes (depending on how many vegetables you serve, and how old your kids are!) And though we may have to do this occasionally, we really do miss a huge opportunity if we do this too often.
We need to see dinner time as more than the last job we have for the day – it is a family time, a social time, a time to connect and grow together. And if we put in the effort to prepare for conversations (you could say food for the soul) as much as we prepare the meal itself, we will be creating a culture rich in learning and bonding.
Also sharing and linking with others:
Throughout the week I share with one, or more of these blogs (see more details on my Link Parties page)
Monday’s Musings, Thoughtful Spot, Mama Monday Musings, Hip Homeschool Moms Blog Hop, Titus 2 Tuesdays, Coffee and Conversation, Finishing Strong (Middle & Highschool years), Capture your Journey, Thriving Thursdays, Hearts for Home, Shine Blog Hop, All things with Purpose, A Little R & R, From House to Home, Fellowship Fridays, Homeschooling Highschool Linkup,Weekly Wrap-up, Collage Fridays, My Week in Review, Tip Tuesday with Debbie in Shape