5 Tips to Help Families Discuss Serious Topics at the Dinner Table


If you pay attention to current events, you know that the world can be a scary place. As adults, we’ve learned to cope with bad news. Our children, however, need help processing some of the things that are happening around them.

The dinner table is perhaps the best place to talk about serious issues with your child. Meal time is usually the only opportunity that many families have to get together during their busy day. With the whole family gathered around the table, you can broach difficult topics in ways that are easy to digest (no pun intended).

When my wife and I have to discuss serious subject matter with our children, we try to do these five things to make the conversation productive and stress-free.

Make a meal that the kids will like

Before bringing up a sensitive topic at the dinner table, make a meal that the kids enjoy. You don’t want the additional stress of trying to make your children eat something they dislike. You want to have a calm, safe environment that is conducive to open conversation.

Eliminate distractions

When discussing serious topics, it’s important to eliminate all distractions – No electronics, books, or toys at the table. You want to have your family’s undivided attention and they need yours.

Be open and honest

In my parenting career, I’ve had to talk about some tragic events with my kids – 9/11, Sandy Hook, the death of my best friend, and many others. At first, I attempted to shield them from these sad and scary events because I didn’t want them to be afraid. I thought I was protecting them, but I was only allowing them to live life with blinders on. My kids are curious, observant, and persistent. They always seem to know what’s happening, sometimes before I do. My wife and I discuss topics honestly, but in a way that’s age appropriate. We want our kids to hear the truth from us instead of misinformation from another source. We ask for questions and feedback and encourage them to talk about how this situation makes them feel.

Keep lines of communication open

Sometimes it’s not possible to cover the depth and complexity of a subject during the course of a meal. Let your kids know that you are available to discussion the conversation in greater detail at a later time.

End on a Positive Note

After discussing serious topics, it’s always good to end the conversation on a positive note. Two of my children are introverts and have a tendency to internalize everything. If I don’t give them something else to ponder after dinner, they will fret about our discussion and stay awake all night. To refocus their thoughts, we’ll play a fun game such as Minute to Win It or I’ll challenge my kids to tell the best (or worst) Uncle Jokes. Ice cream also helps.

Discussing serious topics or current events is tough, but a good meal with your family at the dinner table can help to make it a little bit easier.

I’ve partnered with Barilla on their Share The Table movement. It has helped to build strong conversations with my family at mealtime and you can read more about my experiences, and tips and tricks for your family, at ShareTheTable.com.

Stay Strong,

mocha dad logo, mochadad




Join the conversation: How do you generate discussion around the dinner table? Share your ideas in the comments section or Tweet me with the hashtag #ShareTheTable.

Disclosure: I’m a paid Barilla Ambassador.

photo via iStockPhoto

About author

Frederick J. Goodall

Frederick J. Goodall is the founder of Mocha Dad - a parenting website focused on fatherhood. He is passionate about parenting and helping men to be great dads, husbands, and role models. You can contact him at fjgoodall@mochadad.com or on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/mochadad