Years ago, I read in a popular parenting magazine, about a family dinner tradition, where every evening at the dinner table this family shared the good and bad things that happened to each of them during the course of their day. I read it in a doctor’s office somewhere, took the idea home that night and began using it.
Every evening when we sit down to eat dinner together we take turns sharing our good and bad things, no matter if we are rushing off to an event afterwards, or not. My family is so used to this tradition that we could be traveling, sitting in a restaurant eating, and all of a sudden one of the younger children will turn to the family and say, ‘OK! Who wants to start?’ They even bring it out when we have company…of course they allow our guest to go first with their good thing.
The good and bad things always lead us into other conversations, and we end up realizing some really nice things about one another. It creates opportunities to talk. We all know how kids can give one word answers like: Yep, Fine, No, Yes, Okay, and the infamous three word answer to everything: I don’t know. Kids don’t always like to talk. They need help to find things to talk about. This is a great way to open kids up and get to know them.
I like to try different things, so, during the week of Thanksgiving I asked the children to add in what they were thankful for, and the responses were beautiful. They were thankful for God, food, a stable routine, school, love and health.
Early on in the tradition I added: learning, funny and random acts of kindness. It takes time, depending on how large your family is, but it makes everyone feel important and it brings us closer together. You learn about your children’s day, really find out what they have learned, and even how they may have endured something difficult.
Sometimes when the bad things are shared, the kids sometimes realize that the bad thing flipped positively, can be a good thing. When they have done something embarrassing and it’s their bad thing and they admit to it, it helps the child learn that it’s ok, everyone still loves you…and when grownups mess up and share their mistakes, it lets the kids know that we aren’t perfect and they tend to learn empathy.
Looking each other in the eyes every night, taking time to enjoy a wonderful meal together, having no other choice but to sit still and listen to one another, keeps everyone connected in an ever increasing, fast paced, high tech world. (As long as we leave our cell-phones away from the table;)
It’s our way of taking a family time-out.