Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Winner Winner Family Dinner: The Art of Conversation

What is your conversation usually like at the table?  Do you ask your family members, “How was your day?” and receive a one word answer of “fine?” If you’ve read my previous post, you know that the time you spend at the dinner table is important. This series of blog posts focuses on how to make family dinner more meaningful and fun.   The first component of  a successful family dinner is  conversation but sometimes it can be difficult to get that ball rolling.  Some family members may not be talkers. Others may not be interested in the conversation topics you usually discuss.  There is a proverb that says, “Beware of a silent man and still water.”  If we aren’t talking with our families on a regular basis, our family is at risk for all kinds of problems.  Let’s talk about how you can get started having better conversation with your family at the dinner table.
      The first step you need to take if you haven’t already done so is to schedule family dinner.  Make a goal and keep it.  Once you have done that, you can worry about conversation.
I suggest you break your conversation topics into 3 groups:  events of the day, events of your past, and events of your ancestors. 
     The first topic, events of the day, focuses on each family member sharing experiences from the day’s events.  To encourage more participation, try creating a list of questions and placing them in a Question Jar.  Ask each family member to choose a question from the jar and answer it.  To make a question jar, gather paper, punches, stickers, glue, and a jar.  Decorate the jar however you'd like.  Then fill it with slips of paper with questions printed on them. Here is my question jar:

Some questions might be:
  • What was the best part of your day?
  • What was the most difficult part of you day?
  • If you could do one thing over again from today, what would it be?
  • Did you help anyone today? Did anyone help you?
  • List 3 things you learned at school or work today.
  • List 3 things that you did at school or work today.
  • Talk about what you are grateful for today.
  • How could this day have been better?
  • How could this day have been worse?
  • Share something funny you heard today like a joke or story.
  •  Share something funny you heard today like a joke or story.
     You could add or replace these questions each week for variety.
     The second and third conversation topics go together.  When parents, grandparents, or any older family member share experiences from the past you have a great topic for conversation.  We can also share experiences from our ancestors.     Why would we want to do this?  Research suggests there are many benefits for children who are brought up on family stories and history. Some of these benefits are:
  • An appreciation for history and a knowledge of it
  • A feeling of belonging
  • A greater ability to face challenges
  • Resilience and a better ability to handle stress
  • A stronger sense of control
  • Confidence and self-esteem
     If you’d like to read more about this research, click here. 
     If you’d like the children in your home to have all of these benefits, it’s easy—all you have to do is tell stories! Start by sharing information about your past.  Adult members of the home could brainstorm a list of experiences they would like to share with the rest of the family members.  These could include:
  • Humorous stories
  • Lessons learned
  • Stories about your first job
  • Stories about school
  • Personal experiences that recount historical events (What was the Berlin Wall and what did think when it came down?  Why did you volunteer to serve in the army during WWII? Where were you when President Kennedy was shot?”)
  • Stories about people who have help you, inspired you, or encouraged you.
  • Experiences that changed your life
  • Stories that illustrate how technology has changed
     It is also important to teach your children about their ancestors.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t like the idea of being forgotten.  Personally, I know very little about my family beyond my grandparents besides names.  I am sad to say I have many ancestors who have been completely forgotten.  I often wonder what experiences they would have liked to pass down and what they would have wanted me to remember.  My grandparents were awesome and I often share stories with my children about their extraordinary lives.  I don’t want them to be forgotten.  Plus, my children benefit from the stories I tell them.  Who doesn’t want more resilient, happy, and confident kids?   Did you realize that you could accomplish this by simply sharing stories about your past and your ancestors’ past? Here are some ideas for sharing stories about your ancestors:

  • Find the oldest member of you extended family and interview them so they can share what they know about your ancestors.  Invite that person to dinner to tell these stories or share them yourself.
  • Ask family members to research an ancestor and share what they have learned.
  • Bring a family heirloom (or a picture of one) to the dinner table and explain why it is important.
  • Discuss the meaning of your surname.
  • If anyone is the house is named after an ancestor, discuss why that name was chosen.
     I hope this week you make plans to gather around the table and have great conversation!  Not only will your table time be more enjoyable, but your children will reap numerous benefits as well.

No comments:

Post a Comment