by Leanne Ely
You’ve done the shopping, the chopping, the cooking, the serving, and assembled the whole family around the dinner table for a nice meal together. Now what? Sometimes getting good conversations started can be tougher than an overcooked steak (especially with teenagers). With hectic schedules, electronic devices, jobs, school, church, and other extracurricular activities pulling us all in different directions demanding our time and attention what’s a parent to do?
Studies have shown that families that eat together frequently have better communication, are healthier and their children perform better in school. According to a study by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA) children who share meals at home with their family have higher self esteem and can resist peer pressure easier. So you’re on the right track. Now let’s just get them talking.
At first you’ll want to keep the conversation interesting and allow everyone one to contribute. Ask open ended questions that require more than just the typical “yes”, “no”, “fine” answers. For example, “How was your day?” usually ends up with “Fine.” But if you switch it up and ask “What was one great/lousy/confusing/frustrating/exciting part of your day today?” you might end up with more than just one word.
This topic is considered to be one of the popular conversation starters because mostly everyone has participated in some type of sport activity at one point in their life. To start a conversation, questions can be asked about favorite sports or how a child is enjoying playing for their local sports team.
Current News and Events
Current news or events can also be a great conversation starter. Family members are able to share news stories that they found interesting and educate other family members about what is going on the world at the same time. This topic also gives children the opportunity to ask questions about events they may not quite understand.
Most families take time at dinner to talk about how their day was. This topic is a perfect way for parents to learn more about what is going on in their children’s lives. It is important to ask detailed questions in order to get a more detailed answer from a child. Instead of asking “What did you do at school today?”, a parent should ask “ What did your math teacher show you in math class today?”.
The key thing to remember is always make sure that everyone has the chance to start and add to the dinner conversation each week. You’ll be amazed at what you’ll learn.
Leanne Ely is a New York Times best-selling author and founder of the original meal-planning site, SavingDinner.com. In addition to many other activities, she is a syndicated newspaper columnist and a BlogTalkRadio host on the weekly show, Saving Dinner with the Dinner Diva.