October 20, 2020
Family dinner is an anchor in the rhythm of a day.
When I was growing up, we’d circle the window seat in our home and pump our arms in the air to get a turn to share about our day. My brother, sister and I were not short on words or the desire for attention at the dinner table.
The Table is Universal “Holy Ground”
Spanning all cultures and socio-economic classes, the table is fellowship. It is a time when people stop in the midst of full lives and busy schedules to gather. We are doing so much more than breaking bread when we share a meal. We eat for sustenance, but it is more than just physical. It taps into the emotional connection between us as we clasp hands to pray, pass plates, and take in the smells and the feeling of “home.”
There is a mysterious transformation that occurs when people sit to enjoy a meal together—one that can’t be fully defined, but only felt with the heart. Of this I am certain—it’s some of the holiest ground I ever tread. It is one of the main places where family is built. Hour upon hour, day after day, whether dining on the simplest soup or feasting like a king, the gathering, sharing, talking, laughing, arguing and debating, weaves a tight bond that shapes who we are and who we become, both as people, and as a family.
The Bigger Picture of Family Meals
Meals are not simply for eating, but provide an opportunity to instill a sense of morality and family values. Our biggest influence is often time around the table. It offers the chance to develop minds, character, and emotional intelligence.
When we establish rituals and traditions around the table, it becomes the heart of family life in the home. While you may get absorbed in the logistics of getting a meal on the table most evenings, keep the big picture in mind. We pause, gather, and grow at the table. Whether the meal is a fabulous home-made delicacy or cheese quesadillas with apple slices and carrot sticks, your family is sitting together, giving attention to each other, and saying that family matters.
So once we are seated, how do we keep meaningful conversation going? Here are three ideas.
5 Ideas For Family Dinner Table Conversation
- CONVERSATION STARTERS: conversation starters are little cards that you can put under plates, in a bowl, or in in a box on the table. Each card has a question on it. This is a fun dinner party activity as well. You can even have people choose a question or two for the person next to them.
- CURRENT EVENTS: bring a newspaper article, a current event issue, or a story to the table and use that as a jumping off point for discussion. These can be inspirational, controversial, informational, or helpful. When you see an interesting article in the paper cut it out and file it in a place for dinner table conversation starters.
- READ A SHORT CHAPTER IN A BOOK: Stories hold attention and also provide a great jumping off place for discussion. I like books like Bob Goff’s Love Does or Everybody Always. The chapters are interesting, inspiring, and short.
- WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF: Give a scenario that helps kids think through how they would react in situations. ie. What would you do if you were at school and the person sitting next to you started cheating on the test using their phone? These can be great teaching opportunities.
- SWEET, SOUR, AND SURPRISE: Some call it high, low, betcha didn’t know. Each person shares something good, something hard, and something that was interesting from their day.
Do not miss the significance this daily act has on your family! While it gets harder and harder to continue to gather as kids move into the busy teen years, continue to value it as a priority and make it happen, even if everyone has to adjust a bit.