Before we had our children, the only time my husband and I ate at the dinner table was when we had company or on special occasions. I confess we were one of those couples that enjoyed watching Jeopardy or the Evening News while we ate to unwind from our busy work schedules. As we welcomed our three girls into the world, however, we started realizing that we wanted to establish a more meaningful evening feast schedule with our kids and set a precedent for a “touch point” as our kids grew and developed. As a result, we started setting up a more proper dinner—all of us at the table, eating, sharing and connecting over God’s word together. While our kids were young, the conversation was primarily between us, as husband and wife, but we would read a Psalm or passage together, share what struck us, what we were learning and touch base about what we had faced during the day. Dinner would begin and end with prayer.
This pattern has been a binding ingredient for our family life together. Now that our kids are approaching their tween years, sitting together, praying and getting into God’s word together provides an opportunity for connecting about the ups and downs of life together. We have tried to talk honestly, in an age-appropriate fashion with our girls about our life as husband and wife, the trials we have faced as a family, and that has served as an access point and baseline for our girls to share authentically. When they face a rough day at school or are facing trouble with their friend group or with a class, we talk about it together as a family and pray about it together as a family. Sometimes, when my husband or I sense that something deeper is going on with one of our girls, we take individual time with her to get into the nitty-gritty. Through prioritizing conversation, openness, and prayer time together, things have been shared in a way that allows us as parents to better support our kids.
Because these dinners together are judgment-free zones, sometimes our kids have shared difficult things and even confessed missteps. We also have a time of family confession—asking for forgiveness—and that has been a help–preventing resentment and emotions from building up and exploding. It hasn’t always been easy, and sometimes our dinners have more silence than sharing, but when my husband and I step back and look at the broad strokes of our dinners with our girls, we feel incredibly blessed. We hope that this groundwork we’ve tried to establish will be especially meaningful as our girls become teenagers and then later establish their own life patterns as adults.
For more about leading an open and accountable life, be sure to check out XXXchurch.com founder Craig Gross’ new book: “Open”, available here.