Strong Families, Strong Daughters Blog

Making the Most of Family Meals

Kate Hadley, Director of Mentoring and Terri Collins, Director of Parent Support
During the time of the Covid quarantine, most of us are having more time for family dinners together without the delays of driving to and from work and extracurriculars that can reduce the number of people at the table.  We have heard many people say that they are grateful for these family dinners and plan to try to carve out time for family dinners post-Covid. 

There has been extensive research that shows the positive outcomes for children when families gather regularly for meals together.  Experts say that kids appreciate their parents more when they take time to share a meal. Children who experienced the closeness of family dinner are said to be more optimistic, feel a stronger sense of safety and security and are more likely to be positive role models themselves. There are many deep and enduring benefits to family dinners. 
A speaker at Oakcrest once said that we should “Be Excellent to Each Other.”  It is striking. We should not just be “nice”, but be excellent. What does that look like at the dinner table? It could mean not commenting when you have felt slighted at the table, changing the subject when someone is getting upset, finding something good (and it must be sincere) to say about a sibling.  If you would like to improve in this area, we  highly recommend  The Hidden Power of Kindness by Fr. Lawrence Lovasik.  This book was the summer reading material for the Oakcrest faculty and staff a couple of years ago.  Even those who are “pretty good” with people find that it helps them soar in their relationships. It is an easy read and a superb guide on what it means to “Be Excellent to Each Other.”  
The family table is an ideal place to practice “being excellent” to one another.  Dinner is the perfect opportunity to pull everyone together and talk about more than school and the coronavirus. Here are some conversation starters to help make the most of these family meals.  We hope you and your family find them helpful.
“10 Best”  Dinner Table Conversations

1. What is your favorite holiday and why?
2. Which sense is the most important?
3. What one thing would you UN-invent if you could and why? (assume all the big bad things in the world have been eliminated; this is supposed to be funny)
4. Parents, what do you DO all day at work? Tell some funny anecdotes about your work. 
5. If you could acquire an instant talent at something, what would it be?
6. Is ping-pong a sport?  Is poker?  What makes something a sport?
7. Play the game “Would you rather…”  Try not to make it too gross, but really interesting things that help you get to know each other!
8. What is your favorite family custom?
9. Tell stories about what you did as a kid: some of your old jobs, a time you got in trouble (something benign!), any adventures you had before you had kids...
10. Put the laptop on the table and invite Grandma or a distant cousin or relative to join you for dinner. Especially for a birthday or to perk things up a bit. A guest can raise the energy level and add interest especially if kids are in a sour mood. 

Terri Collins serves the Director of Parent Support at Oakcrest School. Mrs. Collins holds a Bachelor of General Studies from the University of Maryland and is the mother of four Oakcrest Alumnae (Lucy ‘11, Helen ‘14, Audrey ‘16, Jill ‘17).  Over the past 13 years she has brought her knowledge, experience and love for Oakcrest to her work at the school.  Mrs. Collins provides resources to parents, such as the Family Enrichment program, and opportunities for parents to find friends among other parents. Mrs. Collins is also the school liaison for the Oakcrest Parents Association (OPA).

Kate Hadley is the mother of ten children, four of whom are Oakcrest graduates–Elizabeth (‘98), Cecilia (‘99), Claire (‘02), and Meghan (‘06). She holds a B.A. in Economics from Notre Dame of Maryland University, and has a deep connection to Oakcrest as a parent and staff member. Mrs. Hadley has served as Oakcrest's Director of Student Mentoring Program for 13 years. She was also Director of the Parent Support Program for many years, organizing speakers, giving parent education talks, and supporting the parents in their role as primary educators. She has trained as a Moderator and runs Family Enrichment classes (IFFD).

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels