Cultivating meaningful conversations
Alright mamas, if you’ve been following along lately, then you’ve heard me talk about creating a culture of meaningful conversation in our homes. Now that we’ve made some space for actually gathering with our people and we’ve set some boundaries so that technology is not the boss of us, we can get into the actual conversation part.
Cultivating conversations among our people will look a bit different for every family. As our households grow both in size and life stage, our gathering ways will also ebb and flow. For my big-loud-ever-growing crew, there are some staples that keep meaningful conversation part of our home.
1. Conversation starters
First, offering great conversation starters help lower the floor, break the ice, and give our children a launch point. THIS IS KEY. Tabletopics has many varied sets for all of our gathering demographics. These sets come in a cute acrylic container and consist of over 100 questions to start good conversations. This is one of my favorite resources not only for families, but also holiday gatherings, small groups, dinner club, and beyond. (I’ve even taken them with me for this middle school girls birthday brunch).
Of course you can come up with your own conversations starters, sourced from the internet or even your own brain. The key is to ask questions that require a response beyond yes or no. Even better is to ask questions that require sharing an experience and one’s response to that experience. The goal is to share more of ourselves and build intimacy within our relationships.
For example, what was your favorite thing about this week and why? Tell me about someone you trust and what makes them trustworthy? What was the hardest thing you did today and what made it so difficult?
“If you could” are fun questions too… Like: If you could remove one sin from the world what would it be? If you could pursue any hobby what would it be? If you could choose any family activity what would it be?
STARTER MAMA: This will be the long game for you. Remember that you are building something that takes time. You’re sowing seeds into the soil of your family relationship garden. If you begin when they are young; while just learning to communicate thoughts and join in a group thing for longer than a nanosecond, it will become like breathing when they are sprawled across your living room with their huge teenage bodies. Let them bring their fidgety silliness and learn to build, color, or play with something special while you practice family time. It will be worth it!
2. Ground Rules
Second, facilitate the healthy exchange of thoughts and emotions by having some safe practices (ground rules). Pro Tip: you will need to regularly revisit this! We’ve been conversing as a family for decades and we still have to regroup, revisit and adjust often.
Our family table, or living room, is where we learn to handle hurt and misunderstandings. Both done to us and by us. It’s an opportunity to model and practice forgiveness, repentance, love and do-overs.
We are not aiming for perfect family discussion but relational, grace-filled family discussion. Keep in mind…
- Our homes can be a place for honest hard conversations that lead to growth.
- A place for practicing relationship.
- A place to acquire understanding, offer forgiveness, experience do-overs, and rumble effectively.
- Practice it. Screw it up. Learn from it. Repeat.
- And remember, anything meaningful in our lives will be hard and take time.
When you feel as though your family table is sinking sand… read this little post I wrote to encourage us to stay the course.
Maybe work together as a family on memorizing a verse that helps keep your ground rules grounded. Like this one for example…
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.Ephesians 4:29
3. Consistency Pays Off
Third, be consistent. If you have teenagers or rambunctious littles, or feel completely out of your depth, do not be downcast! Push through the eye rolls and restless fighting. And ask God for wisdom and stamina. Part of the point here is to practice the art of conversation and learn to trust God for true transformation. There will be mess ups and mistakes along the way.
Keep in mind that family conversations build a sense of identity in our children. It helps to foster love, acceptance, belonging and security. Yes, even when its emotionally messy. As our world moves towards isolation and fake connection, our family gathering will be even more essential. Becoming increasingly critical for our children’s mental and emotional health, giving them a place to belong.
Part of building security in our children is allowing them to have a voice that is heard and a place to belong. Showing them what good looks like as they navigate growing up.
The lack of this kind of family identity is one of the key reasons for the growing problems of youth gangs, addictions, pornography, and many of the other social plagues we face in contemporary culture. If young people can’t find a sense of belonging with mom, dad, and siblings, they’ll look for it elsewhere. By way of contrast, studies have shown that when kids feel free to share what’s on their hearts at home, they’re less apt to experiment with risky behaviors and far more likely to develop strong character. That’s not to mention that relaxed, natural, and frequent parent-child conversation is crucial to the younger generation’s spiritual growth and the development of a deep and genuine faith (see Deuteronomy 6:7).Focus on the Family
4. Mama, let them rumble
Ok, I’m going to offer a little warning in our mothering here? When our kids begin fleshing things out during family time, resist the temptation to micromanage, fix it, or shut it down. They need to discover how to rumble well. We need to allow them to get into the ring with their frustrations and flesh them out. Learning to listen well, get vulnerable, and avoid harboring resentment… even when it feels like messy twister!
Listen with the same passion with which we want to be heard.Brene Brown
But then, dear mama…There is that moment. The one where your children step in and take the lead in family togethering. You and I get to pause and praise the God of creation. Because, not all that we have done was in vain. Things landed. Something took. They were listening. And watching. All the while, God was working. And now they are engaging. Spreading their wings. Working things out, rumbling well with their differences and connecting over inside jokes. Forever learning that relationships matter and grace and mercy are necessary.