Tips for making dinner a true family experience.
We've always tried to eat dinner together as a family.
We don't eat together because studies show you should. We do it because it just makes sense. It's always been a time for us to unwind and catch up with each other. I look forward to it every day.
My struggle in recent years has not been in getting people to the table, but in guiding the conversation. It's so easy for dinner to turn into pure adult conversation, as my husband and I talk about stressful things like money, schedules or jobs. These are important things for us to talk about, but it doesn't necessarily belong at the dinner table. I don't want my kids worrying about money, or about the daily issues adults face at their jobs. Dinnertime is also usually the first chance I get to talk to my husband all day. So I want to catch up with him, too. Then there is the fact that our oldest is so busy and, as a result, is rarely home. So when she is, I want to catch up with her, which can leave our youngest feeling left out. We need to find a balance that keeps everyone at the table engaged. 5 Innovative Ways To Bond As A Family
The biggest challenge, however, is in trying to keep the tone of the conversation happy. My husband has a tendency to come home and unload about everything annoying that's happened at work. We're struggling to find a balance that allows him to get things off his chest without contaminating everyone else with his stress.
A solution I've found is to interrupt him when he gets too deep into it, and to turn to a child and ask a question about his or her day. This gets everyone refocused on things the kids are interested in. We save that more adult conversation for after dinner, when we're alone and doing the dishes, or later at night when the kids are busy with homework. 3 Zen Ways To Keep Connected After Having Kids
What I would love the most would be for him to find a way to turn off the work channel in his head when he is home, and simply be home. We're still working on that one.
Here are the questions and comments I typically use to keep the dinner conversation focused on family and happy things:
- Did you hear about X (some current event)? This usually leads to a discussion—involving everyone—about what happened, what we think about it and what it means.
- Tell your sister about X. I like to encourage conversation between my kids at the table, and so I prompt them to tell each other things of interest from their lives. This gets my husband and I involved in whatever the topic is, too, and we end up in a shared family conversation.
- I talked to so-and-so today and she told me X. Talking about news from family or friends is something everyone is interested in.
- What happened with X at school today? I can usually remember something that was supposed to happen at school—a test, club meeting, sports practice or class party. Asking about it not only draws the kids out, but also gives us something to talk about together.
- Did you watch X? TV is always a good topic, as we have diverse tastes, and someone has always seen something interesting lately.
Keeping the dinner table conversation flowing and family-centered lets dinner be a time to relax and enjoy each other. Eat, Argue, Pray At Times, Feel The Love, Repeat.
How do you keep the conversation flowing? And how do you balance family time with couple time?