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  • Writer's picture Ellen Johnson

Family Dinners and Sacred Spaces

Updated: Dec 13, 2019

I’ve been thinking about quality time and parents fostering healthy communication with their children. It’s no easy task. The question I’ve been pondering is how do parents curate safe spaces where kids can be transparent about what is going on in their lives?

Family dinners are a rarity in our day and age. On the few occasions we find ourselves gathered around a table with loved ones, we often feel hurried or we eat staring at our phone or computer screen. So often the default conversation from parents comes down to “how was school?” The child says, “fine,” and back to the screens they go. We have limited time left with our children, how do we want to spend it?

I once heard someone describe their family dinner time as a sacred space, and the idea has never left me. The rule was this: family dinners are sacred spaces, anything shared by the kids at the dinner table was off limits to any immediate negative response or ramification from the parents. Sound crazy? Maybe a little, but stay with me. When a child is sharing about their day and their experiences, they often hold back in fear of getting in trouble or not being accepted by the parent in that moment. In this model, kids can share whatever they want, and the parents agree to listen and communicate without judgement or condemnation. After dinner, the parents can take a deep breath and consider what the appropriate response or consequence should be. Hopefully, most of the time there is nothing more that needs to be addressed! You just had a great conversation with your kid because they knew they were in a safe space to share. That's a win! On the off chance that you need to follow up with a consequence, or you need to continue the conversation, then you can do so after having some time to think about it. Seek them out again and say, “Hey, I’ve been thinking about what you shared and...”

Think about how much more calm, cool, and collected you would be as a parent if you didn’t react right away to the bomb your kid just dropped on you. If you made yourself to hear them out and waited an hour before responding. I think we can all agree, this is not typically how controversial conversations go down. Think about how much stronger and less turbulent your relationship with your child might be overtime with this kind of strategy.

This model is not perfect and it won't work for everyone, but it is an interesting concept. Would you try it? How could this work for your family? What challenges might come out of it? What benefits? Just some food for thought. Sending you my best as you continue pursuing a relationship with your child.

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