Weekly family dinner is an important time for our family – and asking intentional and engaging family dinner questions makes it even better!
Once our children entered the teen years, it became harder and harder to sit down together for dinner as a family. It seemed that between my husband’s later schedule at work, added to all of our children’s activities each week, we never had a night that we could all be together at the table.
This year, I decided this was not acceptable. I threw out the idea to my family that we needed at least one evening a week, we would all work to be home and together. Everyone agreed that it was a great idea! We have absolutely been blessed by these family dinners this year.
How I came up with the idea to use family dinner questions
Many years ago, my mom gave me a set of beautiful linen questions to use at the Thanksgiving table. They were amazing. Not only did it guide our conversation, but it allowed us to be intentional about WHAT we were talking about.
In addition to that, we use a Classical method to homeschool our children. Through the process, I’ve learned that asking questions is one of the best ways to engage in intentional conversation that allows you to see into the heart of your child.
So, I took what I had learned and decided that I would craft a meaningful question each week at our family dinner to help develop deep conversation.
What did my teenagers think of the family dinner questions?
They have LOVED it! I was actually shocked at how much positive feedback I’ve gotten from them about this new practice.
We will often have others join us for dinner. The teenagers always ask, “what is the question of the week?!”
I share the family dinner question on my Instagram every week and I really didn’t anticipate how much the kids and their friends would see it and love the idea!
How did you make up your family dinner questions?
I try not to make them silly questions – like if you could be an animal, what would it be? Although those would be funny and a good conversation, they weren’t really what I was looking for.
Because we parent really intentionally, we talk a LOT with our kids. This would be another opportunity to hear what is going on inside their heads. I wanted to craft questions that allow us to talk about deeper things that don’t normally come up in everyday life.
I began to think about areas of influence I wanted to have in their life. Areas like goal setting, following the Lord, conflict resolution, being an encourager, etc. I decided to shape the questions about those specific topics.
I simply keep a list in the back of my Full Focus Planner. Since I always have it with me, I can jot down a question when it pops into my head. And then I have them all in one place for when I need them.
What questions do you use?
I spent a lot of time thinking of questions, or turning things I hear or read into questions I could use. I thought it might be fun to give you all the questions we used for the first quarter of 2022!
You’ll notice that some of the questions are designed to be used at a specific time of year. You could adapt those, or skip that one and use it at the right time of year!
1st Quarter questions:
- What was your greatest accomplishment of (prior year)? Why?
- If we could do anything to make our family better, what would it be?
- If you could change one habit this year that would have a ripple effect on your life, what would it be?
- What are the goals you’ve set for yourself in (current year)? We’d love to cheer you on!
- Looking back on the last 6 months, what do you think is the most important lesson you learned that will impact your future? (This question was specifically designed around the fact that my oldest son had been gone for the last 6 months for Marine Corps training. So I wanted to take the opportunity to analyze that time. You can just as easily ask things like what they have learned during COVID, or their current school year, or a struggle they have recently gone through).
- What has someone said or done recently that has been an encouragement to you?
- If you could do any career and know it would comfortably pay your bills, what would you choose to do?
- Tell me how you have been an encouragement to someone else in the last week.
- If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing about your life, what would it be?
- What have you learned recently that was challenging, but made you feel accomplished?
- What has God been teaching you lately?
- How do you work to resolve conflict in relationships?
- What have you been reading recently that has been enjoyable or informative?
How to use the questions
I typically do a normal meal time without electronics for our family dinner night. We chat about whatever has been going on and eat.
Then when things start to wind down a little, one of the kids normally asks what the question of the week is. We throw out the question and see who wants to answer first.
If you have an introverted family member who is a thinker, you can easily give them the question in advance. I have a good friend who is like a little brother to me. He will often join us and loves to have the question before the meal to allow him time to think.
We each take a turn answering the question and allow our answers to spur further conversation. Sometimes the questions are quick. Other times, we dive a lot deeper because of the answers that are given. I just try not to force depth if it’s not there.
Are these questions also for younger children?
Maybe! I guess that all depends on how old your children are. If they are littles, perhaps some of the questions may be more difficult to work through.
However, it may push you to talk about things you wouldn’t normally address at a young age. My youngest is 12 and we haven’t done a lot of goal setting with him. This really pushed me to work on goals with him this year, and it has been amazing!
I also feel like children are sometimes seen as super childlike, but they can often have a lot of insight. You never know what a well designed question would elicit from them.
Kids want to discuss big ideas. It makes them feel important and like what they say has merit. So even if you adapt these questions to work with your age range, I think they will be valuable.
I also believe that parents are constantly modeling for their children. This is yet another way for you as a parent to answer the question in a way that models the ideals and values you want to instill in your children.
If you use these, can you let me know how it went? Also, I’d love to hear questions YOU use with your family! Share them in the comments!