Does your family have meetings? What do you discuss? Do you have meetings during meals or scheduled separately? Do you include your ex’s side? Or grandparents?
When I first became a mother it was very easy for me to talk to my oldest at dinner. I always made sure we had dinner together and when I didn’t have to work, go to the field, or deploy my focus was to spend time with him. We baked together constantly, made different dinners, and cuddled almost nightly to watch movies or play video games. He was my world & I was determined to not mess up as a Mom.
I had two girls 14 months apart…in my first two years of marriage. Struggling to even survive is an understatement. I realized that I wasn’t thriving; I was surviving and that wasn’t good for anyone. I focused on fixing myself and becoming the best version of myself. I saw my kids thrive. It’s been a rollercoaster…no day is perfect. But, I made sure that even when times were tough I continued having family dinners and talking to my kids to get to know who they were in their own authentic ways and not what I wanted them to be. (Uhh let’s be real – what parent doesn’t want their kids to be amazingly successful?!? But…if they’re successful creating the newest brand of baseball or the newest eyeshadow pallet it’s not MY choice. It’s theirs!) The best way for me to learn who my kids truly are in their own authentic ways was to have family dinners. Sure, once they become teenagers it’s hard to get them to want to join, but in the end they will join in.
These are my favorite dinner activities:
1. Highs, Lows, and Gratitudes: I had dinner with a friend & our kids & they did this. He asked everyone at the table their “high moment” of the day, their “low moment” of the day, and what they were thankful for that day. The only rules are that you can’t judge anyone for what upset them or what they were thankful for, and you can’t interrupt. My kids LOVE this…to the point that they actually start it on nights they can see I’m either exhausted (shockingly I’m far from a perfect mom!)…or days I’m not there in time for dinner. This has taught my children to be active listeners & they don’t interrupt just to talk about themselves. I LOVE how kids develop habits & very clearly let you know what they want to continue!
2. Discovering Their Love Languages: Love Languages have been huge for me ever since I attempted my second marriage. I felt my need of Acts of Service wasn’t what he wanted. I also discovered that kids have Love Languages too! The best part is that it’s so easy to figure out what a kid wants…and, as Gary Chapman’s book states, most kids need all of the Love Languages. When we did one of his recommended activities it was to go around the table from A to Z & compliment each other. One of my kids was so embarrassed that we were complimenting him that he got up from the table and left the room! So, he clearly isn’t a Words of Affirmation fan. Definitely look into the Love Languages (Acts of Service, Words of Affirmation, Physical Touch, Receiving Gifts, and Quality Time). I’ve learned every one of my kid’s (& my husband’s) Love Language. I’ve also learned that when a kid is having a rough day it just takes using a different Love Language for the kiddo to open up and tell me what’s wrong.
3. Themed Family Dinners: My kids always love when I tell them on Tuesday it’s going to be Taco Night or Fridays are pizza & a movie night…or the charcuterie board & steak nights while we dress all fancy. Kids are creatures of habit. They love thinking of their own theme nights too. Make your own traditions! Use your creativity or Pinterest…and add these days to your calendar so your kids can help plan! Give each kid a job…whether it’s cutting up veggies or helping plan the menu. You’ll be shocked at how much they WANT to do!
4. Family Meetings: Most of our family meetings are about our chores & schedule…but our wonderful church family had a “Drive Thru Movie Night” where we drove through to their Kid Church area & leaders of the church talked to us from a distance & said how much they missed the kids. They gave us a gift card for a movie, snacks, treats, and some toys. My kids LOVED all of that stuff but we discovered there was a packet in there to help find your family dynamic! This was our homework from the first session…and we have two more family meetings to do!! Our family homework assignment was the following…and so far three of my five kids wrote down what’s important to our family. The best part?! My NINE year old thinks kindness, empathy, and love are most important.
As you can see, you’ll be shocked at what your family loves (or hates!) to do together. I was shocked that my Roblox loving 10 year old actually said everything minus electronics were important to our family.
And…for a kid who complains whenever I want to watch the news my five year old thinks watching the news is important!
When you retire your job will be gone. If your job is your identity it’s time to re-evaluate things. And yes…this even means you Stay at Home Mothers/Fathers. Have an identity away from your family and away from work. These activities with those closest to you will help you discover who you truly are.
Your Authentic Self.
“Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway.” – Mother Teresa