Dinner time is a special time in many people’s hearts. Many families use dinner to connect after a long day at work and school! Other families simply treat it as a time to share good food with the people you spend the most time with. Whatever your family dinner tradition, it’s hard to find someone who doesn’t have some sort of attachment to family dinners!
That being said, plenty of people have noticed that it’s become a little more difficult to connect in recent years. Maybe work hours have started to bleed over into the evening, or your kids have after-school sports and activities that prevent you from having the nightly dinner you may remember. When reality hits, it can be extremely difficult to always spend dinner together at the same table...and that’s ok.
Not every dinner has to be an event, and when it’s all said and done, it’s natural for many families to struggle with matching schedules. There’s nothing “wrong” with you or your family if you don’t have many family dinners because every family is different! Kids will grow up and go through phases, your values can change and evolve with time, and just like all other things, families are constantly evolving.
However, if you have a family dinner planned for some time soon, or you’re looking for a new way to connect with your loved ones, we’ve got a couple of suggestions that might help you, namely, conversation starters! We know it sounds corny at first, but having some interesting conversation topics up your sleeve can transform almost any gathering, family dinners included.
This article outlines five conversation starters that you could break out at the next family dinner. Because we only have five suggestions for you, we made sure each one fits a slightly different family dinner situation. For example, one of our suggestions is geared towards a family dinner with extended family included, like a holiday meal, while another suggestion will probably work best with younger kids!
If nothing else, we hope this article can give you some good ideas about ways your family can connect. We realize it’s not always easy for families to connect, especially as children grow up and schedules get busier and busier. That’s why conversation starters are a great way to add some family time back to your life; they’re quick, compelling, and you might be surprised at what you learn!
Conversation Starters For…
As we said before, these conversation starters are for a few different situations. In theory, you could try these conversations at any time, but you might have more initial success sticking to the categories!
We’ll start with one of our favorite conversation starters for kids! As anybody who spends a lot of time around young children will know, having a complete conversation can often be a tall task. On the one hand, most kids love to talk and tell stories, so starting the conversation isn’t too hard. On the other hand, kids can switch emotions and trains of thought in the blink of an eye, and if an exchange isn’t up their alley, they’ll switch their focuses pretty quickly.
To try and spark a conversation with younger kids at a dinner table, you might consider focusing on fun, quirky, or imaginative questions, so it feels more like playing a game than having a conversation! This can go in a lot of different directions, but to give you a good starting conversation idea, try this:
“If you had one wish (and you can’t wish for more wishes), what would you wish for?”
Have everyone at the table go around and say their wishes, and ask them to explain why they wished for that! Make sure your kids know that it’s more of a “silly” question than anything so that they don’t feel any pressure about their answers.
On the other side of the talking spectrum from young kids are teens. Teens are much more likely to answer your questions with simple “yes” or “no” grunts than they are to tell you a story about their day, so making this connection can be difficult. Obviously, that’s not the case for every teen out there, but middle school and high school can be challenging for everybody, especially when it comes to socialization.
As a result, a conversation starter for a teen will look much different. A good strategy could be catering the conversation towards one of their specific interests or asking questions about a topic you know your teen is excited about. Try to hone in on one or two significant issues, and you should be able to spark a fascinating conversation! For example, if your teen is in the middle of a book you know they are enjoying, try:
“Who is your favorite character from the ____ (book, movie, show) you’re into right now?”
By leaving it slightly open-ended, your family can all respond with different answers while providing the teen with a topic they hopefully feel more comfortable about.
When the grandparents come to visit, many of us tend to bring out “the big” dinner table so we can properly feast! Often, grandparents visit around the holidays or important events, so you may even have a dinner party while they’re around. For this kind of dinner, conversation starters might do well to focus on prompting family stories!
Our grandparents (or mom and dad, depending on how you look at it) are fantastic sources of stories and family history. When you get the chance to have them open up, it can be an excellent opportunity for the whole family to learn something interesting about their own lineage. Just make sure that the question makes a space for everyone to tell a story.
Try: “What’s your favorite family tradition or memory? Why is it your favorite, and if you know, how did it start?”
This creates accessible story opportunities for the younger folks in the family and exciting stories about the family from the older folks! It’s a win-win.
If the entire extended family is coming for dinner, then you might have a family game night on your hands. You already know that there will be plenty of catching up and talking around the table, so instead of opting for a standard conversation starter, you might want to look into some dinner table games for family!
We know that families generally love board games and charades, but dinner time provides opportunities for different types of games. Since everyone will be eating, you want the game to be casual and hands-free.
Try starting “The Family Questions Game” by asking one family member: “What has been the ____ part of your year, and why?”
This person starts the chain of responses that will then go around the table! You can fill in the blank with any adjective, but by giving the entire table a single question, you can involve everyone in the conversation with minimal effort.
For our final recommendation, we’ve got a celebratory conversation starter! This is the most niche among all the family conversation starters, so it might not work in every situation. For some context, imagine that this is a birthday, graduation, or anniversary dinner with your family.
The celebration will be the center of attention for most of the night, so playing into that can help. To include everyone in the conversation, make it general enough to apply to anyone but still relatively on topic. One example of this could be:
“What was the hardest part of reaching this celebration? What are you looking forward to going forward from this point?”
When you ask about the past and present surrounding the event, you can draw out stories from people and their dreams and goals for the future, which always makes for great conversations!
Here at theEATbar, we love helping families come together and connect. That’s one of the reasons we created the company in the first place; making a snack that’s fun and easy for the entire family to eat and share, regardless of a disability or disorder.
TheEATbar’s melt-in-your-mouth meringue texture comes in several tasty flavors, so it’s the perfect snack for any time of the day. If you’re looking for easy, fun, and filling calories, theEATbar might just become your next favorite snack bar! Check out our snack collection on our website, or read our blog for more great family and food content.