Editor's note: This article was originally published on Jenni Schoenberger's blog, Mama Plus One. It has been republished here with permission.
Growing up, my mom made sure that we all spent dinner together at the end of the day, eating around the table. She worked very hard to make the kitchen feel like a safe haven to come home, study, enjoy that meal together and converse. But even with all her effort, it seemed that many times, we'd sit down to the table and she would work very hard to ask us about our day, only to be met with one-word answers and imaginary cricket noises as no one spoke.
Luckily, she had a few surefire ways of beating the imaginary crickets and getting us chatting around the table. With her example, and some new ideas, you'll be able to shake up your dinner time conversation and get people talking around the table, banishing silence in the kitchen for good!
Pick a stick, any stick
Have each member of the family write down two or three conversation topics before dinner time and leave them in a mason jar. After everyone dips their food, pass the jar around the table. Have someone draw a stick out and read the question aloud. Take time to let everyone answer and discuss. Don't stress if you go through the sticks really fast, and don't stress if it takes you weeks to go through them. Let the conversation flow naturally and take however much time is needed. If you get off on a tangent or another conversation, that's totally OK! These are just a way to jumpstart!
Thankful year round
You know how some families have that tradition of going around the table and telling what they're thankful for at Thanksgiving dinner? Well, you don't have to JUST reserve that for fall. Develop a spirit of thanksgiving in your home by asking everyone what they're thankful for that very day. Whether you're thankful for making it to work on time for a change, or you're thankful that your kids didn't kill each other that day, or whether your kids are thankful that they didn't lose their lunch money or are thankful for a few extra minutes of video game time, take time to notice the little things you're thankful for each day.
The family that serves together
Plan a family service project at dinner. Talk about how you can help fill a need you see in your community and take time making an action plan on how and when you'll do the service project. Stay open to ideas from everyone, then find something that suits the whole family. Have more than one good idea? Plan to do more than one act of service in your area!
Ban tech at the table!
It may seem like a no-brainer, but technology at the table is a total conversation killer. Whether the teens are texting, the tots are Netflixing or mom and dad are checking the calendar, by making the dinner table a tech-free zone, you're opening the door to open conversation and allowing open communication at the dinner table.
Get rid of one-words
Do you ever feel frustration when you ask your child "How was your day?" and get "Fine," or ask "What did you learn today?" and hear "Nothing."? Get rid of the one-word answers by asking an open-ended question, such as "Tell me one bad thing and one good thing that happened to you today." This will keep you be more engaged with your child's life, and help you draw a little more than just a one-word answer out of your kids. Make sure you're prepared to answer the question, too, in case one of your kids puts you on the spot!