My husband and I recently participated in the Ziglar 7-Day Family Challenge from Ziglar Family. One of the challenge topics was "Communication". They shared on the practical importance of family meal-time and the importance of making daily connection really count.
As a family we typically eat dinner together as a family 4 days out of the week. I would have thought it was more before the challenge. The challenge had me re-evaluate my schedule. I know many families are busy with sports, after school activities, and work schedules. Even if meal time has to be a quick meal before an event you need to get to, make that meal time count.
I am aware of the importance of family meal time, but I recognized after this challenge, how many of our meal times are rushed, to get to the next activity or event. I was challenged to be more intentional with our meal time conversations. With intent to plan and create the environment around the dinner table that invokes meaningful conversations, not just talking business, or schedules.
With younger children this can sometimes be more difficult, I can especially remember the season when we had a four year old, a two year old and an infant. It seemed something was always spilled, I was getting up to get something for someone or if I didn't work extra hard at scheduling when the baby was nursed, yup you guessed it, he wanted to be nursed right when we were all sitting down to eat dinner. Be encouraged moms of little ones, they grow, and meal time gets easier. Now with my 10, 8, 6 and 2 year old, there are less spills, they are great little helpers and they participate more in conversation.
It takes time to teach your children about sitting at a dinner table and entering in conversation without interrupting and talking over someone. If we don't take the time as parents to teach them at the dinner table where are they going to learn? Something I really liked about the Ziglar Family Challenge, is they said to have everyone at the dinner table on the same conversation. This is key with little kids, someone will say something and then it goes on to something else. Keep everyone on the same conversation, then you can move on once everyone has finished to the next thing. It again teaches our children about being present and manners in not changing the subject and letting someone finish their thought, and participating in their thought, not in your mind already moving on to what you want to talk about.
I have been guilty of having my electronic device interrupt our meal time, as well as out at restaurants letting electronics "help" keep the boys quiet. Have you seen at some restaurants where they offer a free dessert or appetizer if your table can go the entire meal without using your phones. I think that is great! If our kids see us constantly on our phones and devices they will also follow. I encourage you to put your device away at meal time, put it on silent. It is important for all of us to connect with those around us without being distracted by e-mails, texts, and social media. I know it can be challenging when you are out with children in teaching them to be patient in waiting for their meal or using inside voices, it takes repetition and consistency. Repetition is key in parenting. Sometimes you will feel "will we ever be able to go out and have a nice time?" The answer is yes! Keep working at it, every mom has had a child have a meltdown, or spill their drink, don't think you are the only one.
Plan ahead of time some conversation starters. There are pre-made cards you can purchase, there are ideas on Pinterest to make your own. You can also keep it very simple with "What is something great that happened today?" With summer here you can discuss as a family your summer goals or bucket list. The great thing about kids, they are full of conversation starters, so if you start it with a simple question it will most likely spark some other topics. Remember though, the importance of teaching connection through action, so let each person finish their thought, and stay on that topic for everyone else at the table before you move on.
I encourage you to schedule specific days where you are intentional with your family meal times. Even if it would work better for a lunch or brunch on the weekend, just make it happen. For example our Sunday is busy with Sunday morning church and Sunday night church, so I plan for us to sit around the table for Sunday lunch. On some Saturday's the same thing, we might have somewhere to be in the morning and the boys might have a event or birthday party to attend on Saturday evening or afternoon, it changes, but I make sure on Saturday we are all together around the table for one meal, it might be breakfast, it might be lunch. Carve out the time! Even if it is not a long time, the key is to make it meaningful and be present.
Our children grow so fast, and this is so important in building relationships now. Our pastors family has frequently shared how they would talk about "everything" at their family dinner table, I love that. If you create the environment where nothing is off limits, it keeps those doors of communication open between you and your children. Create that safe environment where they can ask and talk about anything with you. Without any fears or inhibitions. You are raising up someones future spouse, also future leaders whether that be a business owner, community leader, politician or a stay at home mom who is shaping the hearts of our most treasured gifts. Just get started they will grow to love this time together as a family and you will learn so much about each other as a family.
You can find great tips in helping your family thrive at Ziglar Family.
You can also take the FREE 7-Day Challenge where 7 Leading Experts Share Proven, Practical Advice to Help Your Family Be, Do, and Have More and Experience 7 Specific “Wins” in Just 7 Days here.
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Some of my favorite Conversation Starter Ideas: