I am not a parenting expert, and really I rely on God as to the steps I need to take with my children on a daily basis to help them grow into all they can be. But there is one thing that my wife and I have done since our children were little, and we still do to this day.
That is, we ensure we eat dinner together every night. As long as we are both at home and not traveling, then this is a non-negotiable for us. That means finishing work, getting off that phone call, away from the computer and never-ending emails (us, not the kids). There is something special about coming together over a meal. Our children are still only fairly young (7, 9 and 12), but this is something we have done since they were basically babies. And we do it every night.
As part of this we set the table, including having drinks poured, so that we are not eating and then disappearing. For a 10-20 minute period, we are all still completely connected. There is no TV, no homework, no phone calls, and no distractions. Just the five of us together, talking openly.
Each day we ask each of our children what was their ‘best day’? This gives each of them a turn to tell us about their day: all the good that happened, including things that might not be so good. Each of them has ‘the floor’, so the rest of us is to listen while just one person speaks. The kids also hear about mine and my wife’s days so that they understand that what happens in our days is also important. However they cannot understand why our days are not as exciting as theirs…
We want our children to know that what happens in their day matters to us, but it also means that we can stay abreast of what they are telling us. We can pick up on any trends in their discussion so we know if there is anything we need to be concerned about. And if there are issues, it gives us the chance to discuss them, offering some parental wisdom on the situation at hand.
I know our kids are only young, and many reading this will have older children, but it is never too late to start. Just taking time to eat together and talk, in an age where technology is simply taking over, is a simple key to keeping your family connected. Even if your kids don’t live at home anymore, you can invite them around to dinner one night each week or fortnight, where you get the chance to connect.
I really believe the dinner table is a simple way of making family happen. You have to eat anyway, so it’s also pretty easy to coordinate. By showing genuine interest in the lives of your children, you will not only stay connected as a family, but you’ll also create a stronger family unit.
Matt Danswan is the CEO of Initiate Media, publishers of My Christian Daily. He also blogs at www.mattdanswan.com.