All through my growing up years, my busy parents (my mother, especially) made sure we all sat down together for the meal known as dinner (that’s West Coast for supper).
I didn’t think it was an odd thing to have that meal with my parents and my two sisters, all in our usual places, nor that we used that time to talk about our day, life in general and to laugh and play silly word games. But as I grew up, and then continued that practice with my own kids, I learned family meal time around one table is not the norm anymore for many, many families.
I kept coming across families whose practice at meal times was to eat when you could, perhaps with one or two other family members around you, and the TV might be on or someone might be reading a magazine or newspaper while a couple others ate. The meal was just that. And only that. A time to eat. For me, it had always been so much more than that.
I didn’t fully appreciate how important that family connection time around the table was until my kids grew up and I realized we still have really great lines of communication. I like to think it was because we connected around the dinner table, night after night after night. The food was incidental, though it seemed at the time that it was the only reason we were all there at the same time.
That’s why I can’t say enough great things about my friend Mary DeMuth’s new book called 150 Quick Questions to Get Your Kids Talking. She carefully lays out, in a very quick read, why the Table invites intimate conversation and why conversational parents are parents whose children grow up trusting them and staying in communication. She includes fascinating conversation-starters that go way beyond “So how was your day?” (Not a bad question, but it invites a one word response, not dialogue). Take a look at some of these questions:
- Why do some people tease others?
- What is one thing you wish you had this year that would make it the best one ever?
- If we had extra money this year, how would you like us to spend it?
- If you could have anyone over for dinner, who would it be?
- Why are some people poor and some rich?
- If you could be amazing at any sport, what would it be and why?
- How would your best friend describe you?
- Do you think Hollywood stars are happy?
These are just a handful of the discussion starters in Mary’s book. There are categories of questions including questions that help your children explore their aspirations, their fears, their philosophies on life – and believe it or not, even a five-year-old has a philosophy on life.
If the idea of a family meal together with no TV, no texting, no newspapers scares you, just remember all you need to get a conversation going is something to talk about that matters. And you’ll find 150 of them in this great little book!
The table has always been a place where great ideas have been discussed, plans made, dreams imagined, fears released, and laughs shared. It waits for you and your family!
I seriously doubt anyone comes to the end of their life saying, “I wish I hadn’t spend so much time with my family around the dinner table.”
So there you go. Bon Appetit and a whole lot more. . .If you’re a parent with kids still at home, get the book. Make dinner time connection time. I doubt you will have regrets.