Getting Conversation Back on the Dinner Table
Getting Conversation Back on the Dinner Table

Unlike the families of the 1950s who seemed to have more time for family meals, we the millennial families find ourselves heading a million different directions at once. Work, activities, television, computers and homework all compete for our time and often our homes begin to feel like hotels, with family members waving to each other like guests as they pass in the hallways. 

Trisha and her familyIn our home with five children, we counteract this millennial family craziness by placing a priority on family dinnertime. While it takes some effort, planning our dinners in advance allows us to spend more time enjoying the meal together than we do preparing it. This is important because over the years, my goal has been not only to provide healthy, balanced meals for my children, but also to create an atmosphere of togetherness and openness through conversation.

In our home, the dinner hour is a time to come together as a family to talk, laugh and share our thoughts, views and ideas. Dinner is where and when some of our favorite family memories are made. But creating this atmosphere of openness and togetherness doesn’t just happen by placing a meal on the table.

Here are my time-honored tips and tricks for fostering open communication and togetherness at the dinner table.

Ask Questions: Use a variety of open-ended questions that require more than a yes or no answer to create conversation around the dinner table. Choose topics that will interest both younger and older children, like world or local events, new friends or even what they are learning in school. Encourage family members to share about their day, both the highs and the lows, tell a funny story or share a riddle. If you need ideas, 24/7 MOMS posts a daily Table Talk question and riddle and the Huffington Post offers a weekly topic appropriate for older kids and teens.

Use Props: Place an object in the middle of the table. Try choosing an item your children might not be familiar with or something that has been handed down for many generations. Ask younger children to guess what the object is and ask older children to make up a story about the object.

Get Reading: Choose a book to read aloud as a family or read a book together and discuss it over dinner. There are many books out there that often teach a lesson, one of my favorites is Have You Filled a Bucket Today, by David Messing. Another idea is to read books with food in the title, like Green Eggs and Ham or Stone Soup and then prepare the food together as a family.

Remember to keep the conversation positive and fun- there are no wrong answers when it comes to the dinner table conversation. Armed with these ideas, how will you make your family dinner a time to grow closer together as a family?

Trisha Novotny is the Founder and CEO of 24/7 MOMS where she hosts the #1 Live Webcast for moms. Trisha is also a weekly columnist for SC Johnson. A passionate writer and speaker, Trisha’s one goal is to keep it simple as she makes every moment count along her mom journey. With five kids spanning elementary school to college, Trisha understands the life and needs of a MOM, which inspired her to create the 24/7 MOMS website, community and webcast. Trisha and her husband, Steve, reside in Gig Harbor, Washington with their five children.