Deeply Connecting with Our Kids: Moving Beyond “How Was Your Day?”
Easy Dinner Conversation-Starters for Families
By Hannah Herring and Melody Bergman
How many times have you asked your child “How was your day?”–only to receive a one-word response? This can be frustrating to us as parents, but our kids are worth learning new skills to engage them!
One of the best things that parents can do is to set an example of communicating openly–being willing to talk about anything and being willing to truly listen to our kids.
Our emotions and our experiences show in our faces and especially in our interactions with our family members. I have learned so much just listening to my children talk to each other at the dinner table. For instance, one of my sons started telling his brother about how a “griefer” attacked his friend’s Minecraft. He seemed really upset and was so frustrated about it. After listening for a while, I started asking questions. I learned that “griefing” involves unprovoked, random attacks where players–often strangers–destroy others’ creations in the gaming realm. My boys were more than happy to involve me in the conversation because I showed interested in what is happening in their lives, rather than belittling strong emotions over a video game.
Kids are curious! They want to know what you’re doing, how you’re doing it, and why you’re doing it. It’s okay to start conversations with a question about their day. But if they don’t give a long answer, don’t get discouraged! Continue the conversation by telling them something about your day.
For example, sometimes when my children get home from school I have information pulled up on my computer related to my work. Lately I’ve noticed that my oldest son likes to sneak a peek over my shoulder to see what I’m doing. Instead of brushing him off, I will often stop what I’m doing, make eye contact, and engage him in conversation about it. He might say, “Mom, what are you working on?” and I’ll tell him about the article or briefly explain the research I’ve been looking through. And, just like I enjoy listening to him talk about his school day, friends, video games, or the books he’s been reading, he seems to enjoy listening to me talk about my work. It’s fun connecting this way–for both of us!
Dinner has always been a fun time for my family. We’ve been known to sit and talk for hours or debate our way through the meal. I’ve laughed so hard that I’ve fallen off of my chair and collapsed under the table (courtesy of some siblings). Most of our long-lasting and most loved, memorable conversations started because someone shared an experience or a funny moment from the day and it started a domino effect. (To read about more benefits of open communication and other ways to show your children that you care, read Four Simple Ways to Strengthen Your Relationship with Your Child This Year).
Nowadays, because of how familiar kids are with technology, that domino effect can be started by sharing experiences or funny moments related to our technology use. So many opportunities for good questions and conversations have opened up to us. We can ask questions that invite our children to consider the good of technology as well as the bad things about technology. We can help them think about where they are and where our family (and personal) standards are in relation to our technology. And we can start those conversations from our own personal experience.
Here are some ideas for tech-related conversation-starters:
- “I saw the funniest meme today. (Share the meme). What is the funniest meme you have seen this week? Who showed it to you/where did you find it?”
- “Yesterday I was looking at the news and I saw a video of (fill in the blank). It was really inspiring. What is the most inspiring or inspirational thing you saw on social media today? This week?”
- “An old friend added me on Facebook today. I haven’t talked to them in years! It was so good to catch up. Did anyone add you on your social media accounts? How did you meet them?”
- “I follow (name a person or group) on Instagram and they posted the greatest picture today. I’ll have to show it to you after dinner. Who is your favorite person/group to follow on social media?”
- “I was talking to Mrs. So-and-so across the street after school today and she said that her family just implemented some new rules about their video games. (Share one or two of the rules that stuck out to you.) I really liked that. What do you guys think about it?”
- “What are some rules that your friends’ families have about social media and technology? What do you think of those rules?”
You can also make it a little more fun! Try some of these:
- If you had to pick one gaming character to be, who would you be and why?
- What is the best thing about your smartphone? The worst?
- What meme do you think best describes you?
- If you could only play one video/computer game for the rest of your life, which one would you pick? Why?
- If you had to lose every piece of technology except for one thing, what would that one thing be?
For more amazing conversation-starters that help build connection in your family, check out 30 Days to a Stronger Child.
It’s not always easy, but opening up communication over the dinner table–whether your kids are 2, 12, or 18–will be a huge benefit to your parent-child relationship. As we build meaningful connections with our kids, we begin to understand how best to help them, serve them, and show love for them. As we come to know our kids, we can come to love them more. So talk!
For more information about questions and types of questions you can ask your kids, check out Parents: Use The Power of Response Questions.
Hannah is from Utah and is a student at BYU, majoring in Family Studies. She is preparing to apply to graduate programs in Marriage and Family Therapy. She hopes to go into counseling with an emphasis in addiction recovery and mental health. From a large family, she loves children and their protection and education is top priority.
Melody Harrison Bergman is a mother and step-mom of three awesome boys, founder of Media Savvy Mamas, and a member of the Safeguard Alliance for the National Center on Sexual Exploitation. She has a bachelor’s degree in communications and has been writing and editing since 2002. Her mission is to motivate leaders and community members to educate and protect children and families.
Fritz, J. @. (2017, April 25). Family Dinner Conversation Starters. Retrieved May 19, 2018, from https://www.createcraftlove.com/family-dinner-conversation-starters/
Hyatt, M. (2015, September 14). How to Have Better Dinner Conversations. Retrieved May 10, 2018, from https://michaelhyatt.com/how-to-have-better-dinner-conversations/