This is an excerpt from podcast episode #102 Josh Ochs had with Jennifer Zumbiel who created Togather (a game of family communication exercises). In this episode, Josh asks Jennifer to share tips parents can use to get their kids or teens to open up and talk around the dinner table. Keep reading (or listen to our podcast) to learn why it’s so important for your kids to develop positive communication habits at a young age, how you can be more intentional with your family’s communication and how to create a natural environment that encourages communication.
What is the Togather game and how does it help families?
I am a mother of four children and a wife of 15 years. I have a background in teaching and business. I felt like we live in a world where face to face communication was becoming a lost art. I think that the heart of families is what suffers when that breaks down and essentially that’s going to break down our families. Which in turn breaks down our communities.
I was on a mission to come up with a solution for providing a strong and deeper communication in the small moments that families have. I have four kids and a husband who travels, so it’s easy for us to get distracted. Those times of connection are not going to naturally pop up during the day like they do for everybody else, so we have to get creative.
I got creative and created mealtime games that help families get past surface questions — the one word answers — and dig deeper.
How does the game work and what will parents learn from it?
Parents can learn whether they’re a family that already communicates a lot and communicates well around the table or they’re a family that struggles with communication. Maybe you don’t know how to get past those one word answers or you have a family that likes to sit in front of the TV during dinner.
This game offers a solution for every family because it helps to outsource your communication. There are 105 prompts in the game that help ask the questions you want to know and that people want to answer but sometimes aren’t in the mood to. For example, if you’re passing around the game and it has a sticker, the sticker told you to do it, so it’s more likely that you’re going to answer the questions.
By sitting around a table, you have a captive audience that is right there and ready to listen. You are setting it up for everyone to feel like a cohesive unit. You get to hear compliments from people. It’s not all deep stuff either. You get to have some good bantering back and forth. You get to hear lighthearted things, but everyone engages at once and it just provides a reason for people to open up. If you can talk to your kids about the little things when they’re little or younger, they’ll come to you with the bigger things as they grow.
What are some other family communication exercises that can encourage kids to open up?
Be intentional about your communication. Consider pulling a quote out if you see something when you’re scrolling through social media, write it down, bring it to the table, and slap it in the middle of the table. Try new family communication exercises, if the same thing doesn’t work, bring something new to the table.
How can parents try Togather for free?
We have seven different categories. You will receive virtual stickers that you can print out at home. They’re one of our best conversation prompts from each of our categories and then you can see what the style is and you can expand on that category yourself. Come up with a question yourself that you think would be a part of that category.
You can do these family communication exercises in the car or out at a restaurant but I wanted this to be around meal times because even if you have a lack of communication in your family, or threats to our communication, everybody has to eat.
So if you put the food down, they will come. That’s just a fact.
Tips for being intentional about how you set up your dinner time:
- Nobody can eat till everyone is seated
- You can’t talk about anything negative around the dinner table because that will push people away
- Make communication happen around meal time because everybody is right there engaged with one another
Whether your family excels or struggles with communication, these family communication exercises can help you improve and build deeper connections. When parents are intentional with their communication they will start to see more opportunities to talk as a family. Meal time is a great place to start for families who are struggling with their communication because everyone has to eat and the dinner table is a natural place to spend time together.
Communication is so important for families because if you can talk to your kids about the little things when they’re younger, they’ll come to you with the bigger things as they grow.
What are your best tips for improving your family’s communication? Let us know in the comments below!