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With the holidays approaching, there’s so much to prepare—decorations, cards, gifts, school parties, clothing for the whole family, meals and more. Often, it’s not until we’re already sitting around the table that we realize there’s one more thing we wish we’d prepared for: the family dinner conversation. Multiple generations, multiple political views, multiple families, multiple traditions and if we’re lucky, we can share this one meaningful meal together.

We’re all aware of the conversational landmines involved in talking about charged topics such as religion, politics and current events (plus those topics are a sure-fire way to lose the kids’ attention quickly).

This year, you can show up to the table prepared with seven conversation starters that are sure to bring everyone together.

“What’s your favorite family holiday tradition?”

Have you passed it on to your children or grandchildren? Will you pass it along to future generations? If you want to get creative after everyone shares, you can choose an old tradition to revive or create a new family tradition to carry into future years.

“What are three nice, thoughtful things that people have done for you that made you feel really special or loved? “

Think about someone who could use a helping hand or some friendly attention (someone you know or have heard about).  What plan can you make to do something nice or thoughtful for them? And is there someone else at the table who would like to help you?

“What are your favorite memories of time spent with family?”

This is a great one to engage everyone at the table and for little ones to get to hear some family-history. It’s fun to be sure that each memory-teller gets asked 3 or 4 follow-up questions.

“What do you think is your personal best way of being generous and why?”

Can you share a story about a time you did one of these things and made a difference, such as giving a gift of money, helping out, listening to others’ stories and feelings, leading others with your great ideas…or something else?

“Imagine you could add one guest to your family holiday table. Who would you choose and why?”

Be sure to choose a real person from any period in time, famous or not. Follow-up question:  Who would it be if you could invite any character from a book, television show or movie?

Play Two Truths & a Lie

Everyone at the table will say three things about themselves—two of them will be true and one will be made up. The other guests at the table will guess which one is made up. And, after the answer is revealed, guests can ask questions about the true statements!

Don’t Hate, Appreciate!

It’s so nice to hear words like “thank you” and “good job.” You know what can be even nicer? Hearing what kind of impact you have on people around you.

Each person at the table can take a turn to express how they feel.  The structure is “{Person You’re Addressing} when you {do/did/say/said ___________) I feel/felt {emotion or feeling words}. Here’s how this could play out in a few different relationships and scenarios:

  • Dad to Brother: “Uncle Scott, when you said to Danny that he’s lucky to have me as a Dad cuz I’m the best daddy ever, I felt proud, loved and also nostalgic because I miss our Pops.”
  • Partner to Partner: “Jan, when you make up songs with our kids’ names and sing to us before breakfast, I feel like the luckiest person on the planet and I smile all the way to work on those days.”
  • Child to Mom: “Mom, when you accidentally fall asleep in bed next to me when we read stories at night, I feel happy because I get extra time with you.”

“If you could learn any new skill or hobby right now, what would it be?”

Share some topics and skills that you are interested in but haven’t really taken the time to learn. What ways could you contribute to the family or the world if you were to develop a new talent, skill or knowledge?