It was a huge challenge to get five kids to settle down and have meaningful dinnertime conversations. Just getting dinner on the table and everyone there was a win in my book. But I felt there was more to just feeding them all quickly and moving on to the next activity…and that it would be worth it if I persisted.
As my kids were growing up, dinner time was often noisy, chaotic, and, well, ‘busy’ would be a good word to describe the normal nightly scene.
I realized early on that something had to change or it would be time of missed opportunities if I didn’t make some changes.
My solution to meaningful dinner conversations was from a list of questions I invented myself.
Now, years later, as we get together and the memories are shared, they are often focused on food and the mealtimes together.
To show the impact of how this tradition of eating dinner together can affect a family, recently as my kids, grand kids and extended family were gathered at our home, I had to step into the hall to wipe away tears of joy as I listened to the laughter, the easy conversations, and the fun that is now the norm as we eat together.
So, let me ask you this question.
Is it a challenge to get your family together at meal times?
Do they visit and talk to each other at the dinner table?
Or is everyone with their head down looking at their phone, or electronic device; in their ‘own world’?
Are meaningful conversations happening on a regular basis in your home?
If your answer is that you could use some tips and pointers to help you learn How To Have Meaningful Dinnertime Conversations, I’ve got you covered!
Really, with what I’ve prepared for you, this technique makes it so natural to practice this art of conversations, that you’ll consider it a success and be glad you did it.
As dinner times become exceptional, you’ll be amazed at the changes in each person. You’ll see how they will become better individually as well as a family unit, all because of eating together and having conversations.
It will bring a bond and stronger relationships that wouldn’t have been there.
I have some tips and tricks on the How’s and Why’s that will benefit you and your family for years to come as you have meaningful dinnertime conversations.
Tips Such As:
- When do you meaningful dinnertime conversations?
- How do you start them?
- What do you say to make them worthwhile?
- How do you get your family to eat meals together regularly?
Let’s be down-to-earth. If this is new to your family, it may possibly be a challenge, or a pain in the neck, to start something like this; depending on family personalities. BUT it’s worth it!!!
So WHY are meaningful dinnertime conversations worth the trouble?
- Research has shown that families who eat together have more close-knit relationships.
- There is a lower number of depression and suicidal tendencies in teens and older kids that have had regular meals as a family.
- Less substance abuse in teens and adults who eat together and hold meaningful discussions.
- Vocabulary and education are higher in children who eat together as a family and have conversations.
- Bonding and insight that comes from these times bring fond memories and instill a sense of belonging which strengthen relationships.
As I have pointed out from my own experience having very busy kids, all with strong personalities, yet it is worth taking the time to have dinner conversations.
WHAT do I do?
1- It might seem like crickets, you might have a protest, or it might be a cheerful chorus when you announce the FUN new dinner tradition – regardless of the reaction, it will work out, just keep going, and I’ll help you all the way.
2- Be patient, have a sense of humor and remember the end goal in all of this. Nothing great is accomplished quickly.
HOW do you start this tradition of meaningful dinnertime conversations?
1- It really helps to have ground rules set up. I like to have some that are mandatory, and then let my kids, or grand kids also help set them too. They usually come up with guidelines that I hadn’t thought of that are very helpful. And it makes them feel ownership in the process. These are a few I would strongly suggest.
2- Have a set dinnertime that really needs to be accepted by everyone and held to as much as possible. If breakfast time works better, than by all means, have that be the meaningful conversation time together. The point is to have a DAILY set time the family, couple or those doing this together participate in.
3- Have a basket or place that ALL phones and electronic devices are stored during dinner. That includes parents devices too. No TV or movies on either, except for a rare occasion of a designated movie night by you.
4- Make it FUN!!! As you go about this, my opinion here, at the beginning unless laws are broken and the police need to be called, language or action is disrespectful and vulgar, or there is a home rule blatantly broken – let it slide IF you feel you can. Of course I’m being a tad bit sarcastic, but when something new is instigated people feel awkward and uncomfortable, acting out in uncooperative ways oftentimes not knowing what else to do. Just my two cents, you do as best suits your family and situation of course. I wouldn’t tell this to the family. I would set boundaries as I always do, but not so strict that my end-goal couldn’t be accomplished as the process is started. As it gets going and everyone adjusts to it, the rules can be reset to a higher standard, if necessary; again depending on the personalities of the family members.
5- Have a reward for having a successful dinner conversation, for example of 5-7 times in a row. Maybe a special dessert would be appropriate, such as ice cream sundaes, or donuts, or whatever is best for your family.
NOW to the FUN part!!!
The key to cracking that challenge having meaningful dinnertime conversations are my Dinner Conversation Starters
1- Download my FREE printables here,
2- Cut them out and put them in a family jar, bowl or special container to use.
3- Take turns pulling them out and answering the questions
4- One question can be chosen and everyone takes a turn answering the same question; which would be the most beneficial and enlightening to find out what is going on in their life without prying or being perceived as meddling. And see the different way each looks at the same question, giving you the opportunity as a parent to help each one recognize how wonderful it is to be unique and see things in their own special way.
5- Keep the time SHORT, unless your family wants to go longer. This will bring them back for more the next night and the next and the next. It will be perceived as FUN and not a chore if it’s brief and not expected to take all night.
You will be amazed at the benefits of this small, but very powerful tool to begin the dialogue with your family and have open communication. Ideas will come for your own questions to add to the tags I’ve provided. Your family will have some great suggestions of questions also.
This game is another resource if you want more options: Table Topics HERE
I’d love to hear your experiences with your family and how it is going to with dinner conversations. The most important things we do are never easy. Keep at it, don’t get discouraged and listen for the remarkable answers you will hear as the questions come up during your meal time chats. It will be extraordinary and worth every minute.
Copyright Carrie Groneman, A Mother’s Shadow, 2014, 2019
Recognize a blessing and be a blessing today.