You can just feel the rhythms of daily routines and habits changing this time of year, not just in the changing of the seasons, but in the changing rhythms of households with children who have started a new school year. Even if you don’t have children in your household, you most likely know some child-a niece or nephew, a grandchild, neighbor, or a child of a friend-who is back in school. Families everywhere are now adjusting to routines of more structured days and evenings.
While there is the inevitable sense of loss over the ending of the free patterns of summer, one positive addition that many families rediscover this time of year is family dinner time. Even if it can only happen a few nights a week, time around the dinner table is precious and meaningful. This week, I read an article by a blogger, Meg Conley, who shared a simple way to enhance family dinner conversations. She suggests having each person at the table share their responses to three simple questions, which can be discussed as a family, with another adult, with friends, or simply in your own mind. If you keep a diary or a journal they are ideal prompts for some soulful reflection there, too.
The three questions are as follows.
How were you brave today? I love this question because it is so strength-based. Asking people to highlight how they courageously faced a challenge is positive and hopeful. For adults, this could apply to anything from bravely facing an illness or loss, having a difficult conversation with someone who has hurt them or who spoke up upon hearing something offensive in their presence. For a young person it could mean talking to a teacher about someone who is bullying them or another child, or asking for help in understanding a difficult assignment. Life is full of difficulties at any age and it is inspiring to celebrate brave and courageous responses to life’s challenges.
How were you kind today? This question reminds us that no matter what happens to us on any given day, there are always countless opportunities for both children and adults to practice kindness. Extending kindness to others can be as simple as the way we interact with a clerk or server, or calling or visiting a friend in need. A middle school student could be kind by befriending a child who has been marginalized by the popular crowd at school. Come to think of it, this same expression of kindness could be practiced by adults as well in their own contexts.
How did you fail today? This last of the three questions normalizes the fact that, in spite of our best intentions, on any given day, we fail. Sometimes we try something that fails, sometimes we fail to do something (like being brave or kind) that we wished we had done. A high school student might share that they tried to give a talk in front of the class that day without notes and they became embarrassed when they lost their train of thought. Or an adult might share they didn’t speak up that day when they wished they had, or missed a deadline at work. They might even acknowledge something that they failed at as a parent. This question normalizes the fact that none of us are perfect and that the mistakes any of us make are opportunities for learning.
So how would you answer these three questions right now? Whether you answer these questions by yourself, with friends, or family around the family dinner table, I believe you will be inspired and enriched by what is shared, and what you learn about yourself and others in the process.