The Only Thing That Keeps My Family's Spirits Up Right Now? Nightly Family Dinners

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My family has been in a self-isolation for almost nine weeks, and in that time, we’ve seen loved ones lose jobs, schools close for the remaining of the academic year, and daily routines come to a stagnant stall. It hasn’t been easy for my 6- and 11-year-old boys, who have taken it all in stride but struggled to find solace from this isolation.

As a parent, I’ve let a lot of rules slide lately and have not made the boys’ routines very stringent or demanding. They spend more time on devices and Netflix than I could have ever fathomed two months ago, but I know it’s keeping them entertained and happy, which is what’s most important to me right now. Besides that, we’re all trying our best to find connection and meaningful engagement with our friends and family at such an unprecedented time in our history. But the one thing we’ve been implementing that makes us feel connected and optimistic is our daily dinner chats at the table.

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I know it sounds cliché, but it’s been such a blessing. Prior to this pandemic, we ate at the table together most nights but the conversations were filled with hectic coordination of the next days’ schedules, projects, homework assignments, work travel (for myself or my husband), and so on. Rarely did we work to have deeper conversations about hard topics because we were always in a bit of a rush to wrap up and get everyone showered before bedtime.

But ever since the COVID-19 crisis began, we’ve been having some really deep talks at the table. We discuss death, uncertainty, our fears, things we can do to keep ourselves safe, and more. It’s been such a profound experience to hear my 6-year-old tell us how he’s just pretending to be okay but is really “dying inside” because he misses school so much. Or how my 11-year-old’s biggest worry is that one of his parents will be taken away from him as this health crisis grows. Slowly and deliberately working through complex topics with honesty has been eye-opening, to say the least. We actually will linger at the table for upwards of an hour some days because we’ve gotten sidetracked into multiple conversations. And it’s made all the difference in helping us keep our spirits up as a family. And I know that the open communication has fostered a deeper bond in our relationships. Right now, it’s all about finding the small things that help us through the day – and our nightly conversations are something I truly look forward to.

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