“Oh good, tonight we get to talk about debt.” My not-quite-nine-year-old uttered these words (and not sarcastically) as we sat down to dinner a couple of months ago, and I still giggle a little bit whenever I think about our dinnertime conversations.
Besides inducing me to smile or laugh when I think about them, our dinnertime talks have recently taken a turn for the fascinating. Our kids are getting older (in those upper elementary years), and while finding the time for family dinners amidst other demands of the week is rarely easy, the rewards are definitely worth it.
When our kids were younger, family dinner consisted of parents getting up and down to refill plates, waters, etc., and asking a few questions here and there. Worthwhile and incredibly important time? Yes. Mentally and physically draining? Also yes. But the habits built in those early years are paying off now.
Today, we still have family dinner (although sometimes we eat snacks or dessert together instead). We continue the rituals we set up long ago — time without phones, sharing our highs and lows of the day, and generally just talking.
And instead of being exhausting, dinnertime is fantastic. We talk about everything — and I mean everything!
While I love the amount of time we spend laughing during dinner, more and more I have come to appreciate how much the kids are learning about life. Much like I did growing up, they’re learning the ins and outs of the real world that aren’t necessarily taught in school.
A few dinnertime topics have come up recently. They could be great talking points for your next meal!
- Taxes and inflation: When I made a remark about how expensive airline tickets are right now for an upcoming business trip, one of my 10-year-olds commented, “I hate inflation. And taxes.” Except he didn’t really know what any of that meant. So we had an in-depth discussion about what taxes and inflation are, how they work, and the different effects they may have on people and businesses.
- Post-high school plans: My kids have big dreams for when they grow up, including moving to Australia to be wildlife experts (thanks, Irwin family). They’ve started asking new questions about how to realize those dreams, including what they should study after high school, where they might go to college, and if they need to go to college for their particular career plans.
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- Scholarships and debt: The college talk led to a discussion about ways to pay for college, how to get scholarships, and what student loans are. That quickly veered into an entirely separate conversation about debt, different types, pros and cons, and what that means for future finances.
- Travel: My kids are in the travel sweet spot right now: No one needs to nap, everyone can handle being hungry/thirsty for short amounts of time, and they are still young enough to be enthusiastic about everything. We have taken a few trips recently and end up talking about other places we want to go, when we can go, what we will do there, and all the fun surrounding trip planning.
- Careers: My husband and I both work remotely from home, so the kids are always aware of our jobs and work. They love when we talk about it. While they have picked up a surprising amount of marketing and cybersecurity terminology, they also tend to ask a lot of questions about promotions, salaries, and how we get along with our coworkers.
At first, I was a little worried heavy conversations would be too much for my anxious ones. But by sticking to the facts as much as possible, they seem to understand the importance of topics without internalizing them.
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I know it may seem weird to talk about this stuff with your kids. They’re big, adult topics, but they’re also real life, a lot more real life than what our kids may see on television, YouTube, or TikTok. And talking about it now may help them understand more in the future.
At the very least, I can guarantee it will be entertaining.
What are your dinnertime topics around the table?