As you can see from my breakfast “conversation,” I’m no expert. But I do have two foolproof ways to get your kids into thoughtful, wide-ranging conversations at dinner.
No. 1: Show up with news.
In the last month, my family has talked through one opinion columnist’s take on how to treat people who have lived through a tragedy or are grieving a close one’s death, and a news story about how 10.4 million men in their prime working years don’t have jobs and many aren’t looking for one. (As it turns out, my 15-year-old son has designs on being a stay-at-home dad. Who’da thunk it?)
This week we’ll discuss A.O. Scott’s review of Wes Anderson’s new movie “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” We’ve watched every Anderson film multiple times and really “get” his movies, but it won’t hurt to clear up a few things about 20th-century European culture and the Iron Curtain.
Talking about current events is perfect for kids because they practice a fundamentally adult skill without the pressure of talking about themselves.
No. 2: Show up with prepared questions, an open mind and a soft touch.
This technique is especially good to bring out those who don’t share of themselves freely. Get the book “All About Me” by Philipp Keel and just throw out questions for everyone at the table to answer. “[Describe] one of your most peaceful moments” or “[Describe] a country you fear exploring.”
Or try “The Game of Scruples.” We don’t play the actual board game at meals; we take turns reading off game cards and answering honestly. “Your boss shows up at work sporting a bad comb-over and asks if you like his new hairstyle. Do you lie and say ‘yes’?” “The bank teller gave you an extra $20 by mistake. Do you inform him or her of the error?” Some questions are delicate — and some answers require keeping emotions in check — but they are definitely worth asking.