I am always looking for ways that our family can connect and intentionally grow closer to each other. I want our kiddos to have the opportunity to process life with us and also to hear from mom and dad in an age-appropriate way about what is going on in our lives. At 6, 3.5, and 1, I can’t say my kids have the best table manners, but I do feel like our mealtimes are a way we check-in and share. I first experienced a family sharing the highs and lows of their day at dinner with a family I spent time with in college. As they were eating, even with guests present, the dad asked everyone to share their highlight and lowlight of the day. I remember enjoying as each person did this and tucking the idea away. Now with our little family, it’s a joy to do the same! The answers definitely vary from sincere to silly and often the girls need prompting about what we did that day. But that prompting is a fun way for my husband to get a recap of the day while he was working. I like doing both highlights and lowlights because it gives us the opportunity to process any disappointment or sadness. My husband and I share as well, editing our answers for kid-level understanding, but we also try to be as honest and real as is appropriate. If there was disappointment or sadness in our own day, we share it in a way the kids can understand. As we all share, we coach the girls on good listening skills and we ask follow-up questions. It’s a really sweet bonding time overall.
We’ve incorporated something similar with my parents and siblings as well. My family is spread out through four different states. We are able to gather all together about four times a year and it’s always a cherished time. While I’m extremely thankful for texts, phone calls, and FaceTime, technology can’t compare to in-person gatherings. One thing we’ve started doing is making sure that we have at least one intentional time of adult-only conversation all together after the kids go to bed. Just last week we gathered at a lake house in Arkansas and after the kiddos went to bed one night we took time to share. Although we of course get snippets of other conversations in various group combinations throughout our time, I love setting aside a specific evening for focused talk.
Here are some questions that can lead to meaningful conversation:
What are the highlights and lowlights of your current life season?
What do you have planned for the next month?
What are some dreams you have for the next five years?
What are you most proud of in your life right now?
In what ways do you feel like you want to grow in your job?
What books are you currently reading?
What’s something coming up that you’re really looking forward to?
How can we be praying for each other?
I know in some families this type of conversation may be out of the norm or feel awkward at first. But when one person takes the initiative to get things started, it always ends up being refreshing. Of course our conversation ebbs and flows, someone says something silly (or inappropriate, TBH) and we all get laughing or someone says something more serious and we are all teary. The format isn’t rigid, the goal is just to make sure we have time where we are really connecting beyond the surface. I feel like these times give us the relational equity to remain close even though we live hundreds of miles apart.
Time with immediate or extended family can easily pass by with little connection if we aren’t intentional to share in a focused way. Stepping out whether it feels comfortable or a little awkward with some questions can be a beautiful way to draw closer together.