Having a family dinner is a great way to bond with your family, promote healthy eating and unwind but sometimes it’s easier said than done. Here are three simple ways to help improve communication with your teen at the dinner table.
Sit together as a family and stay seated until you are all done
Pretend this is a restaurant. As soon as you finish your meal, you’re not going to dash off in your car and leave the rest of your family and friends. Pace yourself with your eating and be engaged with the conversation around the table. This helps show respect and it strengthens relationships. Once everybody is done eating (and after everyone has helped clear the table), then you can allow your teen to go back to doing whatever else they feel is so important. Also, don’t start cleaning the dishes while people are still eating and talking. Show your teen that you value their time and resist the urge to multi-task.
Put away all electronic devices
Turn all phones and other devices to vibrate and leave them in the other room. This rule is the same for you and your spouse. Also, make sure the TV and other distractions are off. By setting aside the devices it helps establish that the time spent around the dinner table is important. If you hear you received a text, refrain from getting up. It can wait. Spending this sacred time with your family is more important. If for whatever reason you are expecting an important phone call that you must take, make sure to relay this information beforehand to the whole family and make sure this is not a regular occurrence. You can’t expect your teen to refrain from a text if you aren’t willing to do the same. Set the rules and abide by them.
Ask engaging questions
If you keep asking the same question like “How was your day?” and keep getting the same short response like “fine,” then maybe it’s time to change up the questions. Also, instead of just making them talk, perhaps ask the question but have you or your spouse respond first and then go around the table. Other things to discuss could be current news stories along with thought-provoking questions – check out The Family Dinner Project for various topics to discuss.
If you could change one thing about your day, what would it be?
What are you looking forward to tomorrow?
Tell me something you know today that you didn’t know yesterday.
Can you tell me an example of kindness you saw/showed?
Was there an example of unkindness? How did you respond?
What made you feel happy?
If you could switch seats with anyone in class, who would it be? And why?
Sitting down for a family meal is great for so many reasons. According to the Family Dinner Project, recent studies link regular family dinners with many behaviors that parents pray for: lower rates of substance abuse, teen pregnancy and depression, as well as higher grade-point averages and self-esteem.
It may sound old-school, but it’s time to reclaim this sacred hour and get your family eating together as a family again.
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