For the last 20 years or so my son has asked me an “if you had to choose?,” “would you rather” or “if someone offered you…?” or “how much would it take for you to….?” question almost daily. Once answered, the follow up questions is always, “why?”
If you had to choose, would you rather have lobster claws instead of hands, or the legs and feet of a frog?
Would you rather live in space or at the bottom of the ocean?
If someone offered to make you the world’s best ice skater, but you had to wear a neon lime green leotard every day for the rest of your life, would you do it?
How much would you have to be paid to eat a raw ghost pepper?
For the record: frog legs, space, not a chance, and there’s no amount of money.
This “game” truly drives me nuts. But I have never discouraged it as dinner time is typically the time for these inquisitions and the questions always stimulate more discussions.
Statistics show that eating together as a family (in our case it’s just me and Mancub) has many benefits including better grades, better communication, a feeling of being listened to and valued, self-confidence, reduced risk of drug and alcohol use, self-harming and so much more. These things in and of themselves are spectacular reasons to encourage family meals and conversations. But the feelings that result also lead to kinder, more considerate individuals. And children who are raised in encouraging, supportive and loving environments become caring, loving, kind, compassionate adults.
So, in effect, we have the ability to raise a generation of kinder humans.
You may not like Mancub’s “Would You Rather” game, but here are some other ideas to encourage open communication and get your kids excited about family dinner time:
The Alphabet Game: Go around the table with the first person saying a word that begins with the letter “A.” The next person has to repeat that word and add a word that begins with the letter “B” and so on. The more words that are added, the harder it become to remember them which tends to result in laughter.
Each person shares what the best part of their day was, and the worst, and how they feel about each. This is a great way to show empathy which, in turn, will make them more empathetic.
If your kids don’t know the story of how you met your partner, prepare some stories in advance and then share them at dinner and ask them to guess which one is correct.
Or, reverse it. Have each child share how they think you met. Then tell the story.
Talk about a current event or topic in the news (age-appropriate). Discuss how this topic or event relates to you or your community, how each person feels about it, and what, if anything, you can or should do to encourage or change what is happening. This is a great way to find out how your kids feel about what’s going on in the world, and it shows them they have a voice and their opinion matters.
Do silly stuff! Have a picnic on the living room floor or in the yard. Eat dinner backwards, start with dessert and end with an appetizer. Create a meal together with a theme (country, color, finger foods, etc). Have each person select one item that has to be used to create a dish. Be as creative as you can and include everyone in the preparations, ingredients and discussions. Again, kids who are heard feel valued. Valued kids are less likely to be depressed and more likely to speak up for others.
If you have ideas for family time, discussions, encouragement, games, or making sure your kids know they matter and they have the power to make a difference for good, please email me so I can add it to my resources page. The more ideas we can come up with for inspiring a world-changing generation, the better!
Be the Change,