Fostering Bonds Through Dinner Conversations

Dinnertime – some of us may see it as merely a time of procuring nourishment for our bodies, while others see it for the precious moment it can truly be!

In our busy lives, dinnertime is a chance to unwind and relax with family. It’s often the only time when everyone is home together. However, despite the ease of communication, many find it hard to connect with family members.

Let’s make a change and start turning our dinnertime into true family moments!

 

The Great Benefits

Family dinners offer a multitude of social benefits that contribute to improved mental and emotional health. Other than being able to enjoy nutritious and delicious food at home, let’s see how dinnertime can help us form greater bonds with our family.

Talking & Listening

Dinnertime is a great time for us to practice communicating, especially with the people we are most comfortable around – our families. 

An article on ptlc.sg noted, “Eating together promotes conversations that keep everyone connected. It is a good place to find out what each person thinks about a particular topic, or what’s happening in our country and the world.”

It also helps us and our families to be better listeners. Having conversations while we eat allows us to be more attentive too.

Not Just Physically Healthier

While the nutritional benefits of eating home-cooked meals have been established, the emotional and mental benefits of eating together must also be pointed out. 

Children who have regular meals with families tend to have stronger bonds with their families and are generally emotionally and mentally healthier. The same article quoted, “Children and adolescents eating more meals together with their families are also found to do better on measures of psychological adjustment and display few risk behaviours such as alcohol, drug, tobacco use, depression-suicide, violence, anti-social behaviour, and school problems when compared to those who typically ate 0-1 dinners.”

 

The Great Conversations

If you’re looking to make family dinnertime a daily routine with your family and have trouble starting everyone on the right foot, try starting with an anecdote or two about something that happened that day. Once everyone seems more settled, incorporating one of these conversational prompts might make things more interesting.

 

Highs, Lows & Hopes

Sometimes when you ask your family “How was your day?” or “How was school?”, you might get only one-word answers like “Fine” or “Good”.

Instead, try this great conversation starter where everyone tells about their day in a sequence where they each name what the highlights of their day are, what they find challenging or difficult, as well as what they hope to do tomorrow.

This is a great way to help you and your family give details of each other’s day and engage with one another. Leading questions like “why, how, and what happened?” would be most helpful too.

This or That

Another great conversation starter is a version of the “Would you rather” game where we ask each other to choose between 2 things, scenarios, etc. This is a fun way to find out the similarities and differences between each family member and celebrate them all the same.

You can start small with simpler choices like choosing between black and white or coffee and tea and work your way up to more creative questions like choosing between the ability to fly or the power of invisibility.

It would also be great to have the occasional follow-up question like “That’s interesting, why did you choose that?” to extend the conversation and add in more context.

Questions From The Bowl

To make things more personal, you can place a bowl in the house where everyone inserts a question or topic. At dinner time, you can pick a topic out of the bowl and it can be the topic of discussion.

You might be surprised to hear some of the creative questions your little ones come up with and the even more creative answers they give to your questions.

 

The Greater Dinners

Making family dinnertime a daily routine might sound like a stretch for most of us with a full-time job, a household to upkeep, errands to complete, and everything in between. Keep things light and try these great tips!

 

Your dinner, your way

Set your own pace to start this routine. Schedule the family dinnertime that fits yours and your family’s daily responsibilities. It could be a weekly thing or a fortnight deal. Find a schedule that works for everyone.

You can make the dinner as fabulous as you like or as simple as you can. Perhaps everyone can be part of the meal preparation process so that no one is too tired to partake in the conversations.

It would also be helpful if everyone put away their electronic gadgets during dinner time. A no-gadget at the dinner table rule will help everyone to be more present.

According to an article by June Yong, “The 30 minutes where a parent shuts his laptop and sits with his child talking about the good or bad parts of their day sends a powerful signal to the young person. The parent is effectively saying, “You are important to me, and my work can wait.”

Bigger Family, Bigger Dinner

Once you’ve gotten the hang of your small unit family dinners, perhaps you might try organising the same kind of mealtime with your bigger family. Most of us only gather with big families for celebrations and festivities, but why not make family meal gatherings a more regular activity?

This not only gives us a chance to check in on our family members, it’s also a great opportunity to strengthen bonds and connect with them.

 

According to Yong, “Research supports family dinners and some indicate that eating together at least four times a week has positive effects on child development: Lower risk of obesity, substance abuse, increased self-esteem, and even literacy skills.”

Family mealtimes are a great way for us to blow off steam, feel loved, and connect with the people who matter most in our lives. After all, at the end of the day, when we are all grown and grey, that’s pretty much all we’ll look forward to – having a meal, laughing, and being around our family. Let’s start now!