Is Fall as busy for your family as it is for ours? Do you find yourself crashing into the sofa every evening, almost out of breath from the daily hustle? From practice to ballgames to homework to housework and all the busy-ness that comes in-between our daily alarms, do you ever ask, “Hey, what’s for supper?”
I stumbled upon an article from the WSJ last week about the significance of having family meals together… that research suggests what we probably already know—that regular meals around a table with our families benefit our children’s physical and mental health. Check out this excerpt:
“Those who had eaten two to three family meals a week as teens had lower rates of obesity and eating disorders, as well as better mental-health outcomes than those who had eaten fewer meals together, she found. Those young adults now give priority to dining with their own children and partners. Young adults who had eaten meals with their families three to five times a week as adolescents had even more-significant physical and mental-health benefits, Dr. Berge found. ”
We’ve already seen how depression, anxiety and sadness seem to dominate the news and fill our feeds. What if we could short-circuit some of that with something as simple as supper? What if we could consciously make decisions to be together around a meal—whether breakfast, lunch or supper—so that we could have the critical relational moments that happen when we eat together?
What will you talk about? Well, here are a few hints on starting conversations:
- Lead by example—Rather than open with a question, share something about your day. Put it out there, start the ball rolling, and demonstrate what you’re listening for… Share moments that reminded you of God’s goodness, or the news that led you to breathe a silent prayer, or caused you to be really happy, or really sad. All of those details not only give your teens insight into your life, but they also help your teens see how you handle the day-to-day circumstances we all face.
- Ask open-ended questions—Steer clear of questions that could be answered with a simple “yes,” “no,” grunt, shrug, or nod. You might ask questions like
- Which friends did you talk to most today?
- What class did you feel most prepared for today?
- What are you most looking forward to tomorrow/this week/this weekend?
- Stay positive—Even if they don’t engage immediately with a full-disclosure of their social life to that moment, stay positive. As adults, we can tell when someone seems genuinely interested in our lives or when they’re simply making conversation—teens can, too. Demonstrating that we care about what happens in the mundane details of their lives can translate into more and deeper conversations down the road. If they’re not willing to engage, then take a few bites and share a little more about your own day before you circle back to them. Listen for what they’re not saying, and ask the Holy Spirit to help you speak life and truth in a way they will receive. He’ll definitely give you the words when you need them!
Want a few more hints?
- Set a no-phone-zone around the table—and make sure your teens don’t bring them either! Conversation can be hard enough without adding those distractions.
- No table? No worries! The bigger goal is to have meaningful conversations, so if it means hitting a drive-thru on the way to another appointment, still make sure to redeem that time and invest in your teens.
- Listen with the goal of hearing instead of responding. This is a great communicative practice for us with ALL of our relationships, not just our teens. Make sure to hear all they’re saying before choosing your response; you might find the response changing as you listen more.
- Play the long game. Building open lines of communication takes time over time; don’t allow the enemy to discourage you if the conversation doesn’t last long or go deep enough. Remember they see and perceive our heart more than we might realize, and creating a good habit takes time.
Moses once instructed the Israelites to take every opportunity to tell their children about the goodness of God—to "teach [the commands and precepts of God] to your children and speak of them as you sit in your house, as you walk along the road, as you lie down, and as you get up.” (Deut. 6:6) The principle behind his instructions was to create intentional opportunities to disciple our children as a family—to take advantage of every available moment to rehearse the goodness of God to them. Even the social scientists acknowledge our children will be healthier and more emotionally resilient as a result of our time just eating together. Imagine what God can do with them when we allow Him to guide our conversations!
The days can be long, but the years are short. Let’s decide today to make our meal times about investing in our teens and showing them Who God is—it’s what’s for dinner!
 Jargon, Julie and Andrea Petersen, “Family Dinners Are Key to Children’s Health; So Why Don’t We Eat Together More,” The Wall Street Journal, Oct. 8, 2022; accessed online at https://apple.news/AhDCERz5JS5eh8y9_fm0_Vw.
Rev. Stephen Jones currently serves as the Pastor of Student Ministries at Whitnel Pentecostal Holiness Church in Lenoir, NC. In 2002, Stephen earned a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Christian Ministries from Emmanuel College in Franklin Springs, GA. In 2008, he completed a Master’s of Divinity degree from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Charlotte, NC. Since 2002, Stephen’s full-time ministry to teenagers has spanned two IPHC Conferences, three IPHC churches, and numerous IPHC summer camps. Stephen currently occupies the Leadership and Skill Development Portfolio under the Student Ministries Advisory Team. His areas of expertise and responsibilities include:
– Leading, teaching, structuring and programming for leadership and ministry-skill development.
– Advising the team about current developments, resources, and trends related to leadership and ministry-skill development, especially as they relate to youth leaders and youth ministry.
– Serving as a resource for other leaders, especially in the area of leadership and developing leaders.