I shudder at the numbers. On a typical 24-hour day, my kids spend eight hours in school, three hours at practice, and nine hours sleeping. That leaves just four hours for eating, homework, getting ready, chores (I can hear you laughing!), and any resemblance of downtime. Time is precious, and I struggle to find time to connect—really connect—with them.
On our busy days, there are two main places we sit long enough to have a conversation: at the family dinner table and in the car. Sure, I’d like to tell you that every night, promptly at 5:30 p.m., our family gathers around the dinner table for a hot, home-cooked meal—complete with a vegetable and a fruit. Those of us who are home find our way to the kitchen in the evening to eat together even if we have just 15 minutes before our next to-do. We might eat leftovers, craft a simple meal, or enjoy a “fend for yourself” family dinner (often sponsored by Kellogg’s). When we’re on our way to practice, returning home from school, or headed out to run errands, time in the car has become precious.
We long to connect with our kiddos—despite the utter exhaustion that is tempting us to call it a day and head to bed promptly at 4:30 p.m. While I rarely have the creativity to craft table topic questions without annoying my teenagers, I’ve learned that quick, generic questions for family dinner tend to shut down communication.
“Did you have a good day?” receives the same response of, “Yeah.”
And, asking an open-ended question like, “How was your day?” prompts my child to retell all of the day’s highlights, right??! Nope. His only reply is, “Fine.”
Get your teenager talking by asking these table topics for families.
Listen to your child and ask follow-up questions to learn more. I’ve had to learn by trial and error (lots more of error!) for how many questions for family dinner are too many. And, even that depends on the day and how my teenager is feeling. Food also helps the conversation as no one feels well when hungry. Be sure to answer the question yourself to continue the conversation.
1. “What surprised you today?”
Days can become mundane and seem to follow the same pattern. Though, we all have interruptions or unexpected things happen. Listen for if an interruption bothered your child or if he or she embraced the sense of adventure.
2. “Who did you help today?”
Encourage your child to see and engage with others around them. More than high-fives and jokes, your kid also engages with others who might be struggling in a subject or having trouble fitting in.
3. “When did someone help you today?”
This question can be humbling. We want to normalize the fact that everyone struggles at times, and it’s okay to receive help. Just as your child helps others, your child can receive help on an algebra problem or to find their way to a new class.
4. “How did you see God at work today?”
God is at work constantly—in and through us. Continue to model awareness and thankfulness for God’s provision. He gives us everything we have, meets our needs, and blesses us with things we want. God is also at work in our own hearts, transforming us to be more like Him.
5. “What made you laugh today?”
Humor is always welcomed in our home. We love to laugh at silly mistakes, friends’ jokes, and naturally playful attitudes.
6. “Which song title best describes your day?”
A quick shout-out to music enthusiasts here. As our kids are developing a more refined taste in music, they have begun to love music trivia. Cue the creativity—along with a heap of humor, of course—and you’ll likely get a wide variety of responses such as “Doom, Despair, and Agony on Me,” “Goodness of God,” “Sunrise, Sunset,” or “Fall to Pieces.”
7. “When would you have liked a do-over today?”
Another humbling question, for sure. When anyone talks about his or her day, it’s natural to want to focus on the highlights and the good things. We all make mistakes, and your kids make them, too. Listen to the situation, what your child learned, how your child felt, and what your child did to overcome the challenge.
8. “Who did you eat lunch with today?”
It’s important to know who your kids hang out with. Are they eating with the same group of people? Someone different each day? Does it sound like your child enjoys lunch or dreads the interaction? Consider giving your child a few pointers about navigating the lunchroom and including others.
9. “What is a new thing you learned today?”
You might receive a quick response, “Nothing.” But don’t stop there. Ask about different classes or just one class, to begin with. Is there a new piece he’s learning in band? How challenging is the new unit for her in science?