Lively dinner table conversation holds some incredible benefits for young children and teens, but any parent will tell you how difficult it is to actually get the conversation ball rolling. Luckily, there are some true and tested ways to build a sturdy foundation for engaging dinner time chat.
Eating together as a family will help strengthen the connection between you and your children, in ways that will last throughout their teenage years.
Scientists who studied family dinners found that children who eat with their families are less likely to suffer from obesity, and are more likely to feel good about their bodies. And the icing on the cake – eating with one’s parents helps increase children’s vocabulary even more than reading!
However, many parents will be able to instantly point out that encouraging dinner table conversation is much easier said than done. Even when the food is good and the company is even better, it’s difficult to get kids to say anything other than “fine” or some other one-word responses.
While getting some children to talk is hard, it’s not impossible. There are ways to make your family’s dinner more hospitable for a dynamic conversation.
Ground rule for the dinner table conversation
1. NO ELECTRONICS – This may be obvious, but we need to say it anyway. If you want to keep everyone engaged, turn off the TV, and have everyone (including you) put their cell phones away.
2. AVOID ANNOYING STUFF – In order to keep dinner fun, avoid any nagging topic. This is not the right time to talk about the messy room or the homework that needs to be done. Also, try to keep away from stressful topics, such as grades or success in sports.
3. MAKE EVERYONE INCLUDED – As much as you’d like to talk about the bills, or your day at work, now it’s really not the time. Leave the adult stuff for later.
Next, making sure everybody are engaged and talking
At first, you might wish to model the type of conversation you’re trying to stimulate. Tell the family about your day, and ask their advice about a problem you encountered.
If you wish to extend the talk for more than the day’s event, focus on the kids’ interests. This can be based on the topics your child is learning in school or personal topics that captured his or her mind (You can use Jiminy to find out more about your child’s interests and favorite topics)
Some families prefer to ask questions that everyone can answer, and can spark a conversation, such as: which superpower would you like to have. Natasha Daniels, from the AT Parenting Survival, gathered 50 of them, which you can find here (This site is geared specifically for parents of kids who suffer from anxiety, but this list of questions is perfect for any child).
And, since kids have a different attention span than adults, keep things moving. Be prepared to jump around between different topics. Add a mystery dish, that everyone will have to guess, or divide the meal into courses, and have them help bring the new dishes to the table, so they can move around a little while still being helpful and engaged.
Talking to your children
Apart from the benefits we already mentioned, honest and open conversations are also some of the best ways to solve any problem and get to the bottom of any troubling issue.
At Jiminy, we encourage conversation not only by providing parents with tips and advice, but also by providing parents with the info they need in order to find out what they should be talking about to begin with.
If you’re parents who are looking for better ways to make sure your children are safe online, give Jiminy a try. You’ll start receiving helpful insights and advice mere hours after first installing the app.