Yep, it’s that time of year again. Christmas and New Year’s eve are coming up soon and most of us will spend some time around the dinner table with family and friends. Let’s be honest for a second. Are you looking forward to it?
Do you also have an uncle that just cannot stop talking about politics? Or a brother that keeps bringing up endless stories about when you were little? Or a daughter that always wants the last say in whatever discussion? Family discussions around the dinner table can get quite loud at times. But should you listen most to the loudest around the table?
Around our house, with 5 kids aged between 9 and 21, it can be a challenge to make sure everyone can tell her/his story. Not everyone is an extravert that spontaneously shares his/her adventures at every occasion. But that doesn’t mean not everyone feels good when they can share their story. It just takes a different setting when you are rather on the introvert spectrum.
On November 20th 2014, Unicef celebrated the 25th anniversary of Convention on the Rights of the Child. That Convention states, amongst other things, that all children have the right to express their opinion on matters that are of concern to them. And blended families most certainly fall into that category.
That morning, I heard a voice on the radio saying
‘A real concern in Western families is that most children are not listened to. We all drive them around from school to ballet to football to music lessons, but we seem to have forgotten how to really listen to their needs and feelings’.
True, we often lack the time to really sit down and talk with our kids. And it’s an illusion that children, or adults for that matter, always speak up if they have something on their mind. They don’t.
We use a little trick I want to share to make sure every member in your family does speak up now and then. First off, we insist on eating at least one meal a day together in ‘our week’. It has proven to be the most valuable time for talking. Now and then, we do a tour of the table and ask 2 questions: What was the best part of your day? And what was the worst?The best part can be a great movie, but also a compliment from a teacher or a hug. The worst part can be a lousy exam, but also a naughty remark from a friend at school or a fight with a sister.
I am not a psychologist, but I’ve found it to be a simple but good way to make sure ever person in our house, also the introverts in our family, can share their story. Parents and the occasional guests included. It also makes everyone think about at least one positive thing that happened during the day, no matter how shitty it really was.
We use a variation to the theme to release the tension whenever we feel there’s too much stress or quarrels going on in our family. We ask everyone around the dinner table to mention two positive character treats about the others and one ‘element to work on’. It allows for things to be said, also the less easy messages.
Is it really that simple? Yes, it is. Just give it a try. Preferably on days when you feel good yourself.