Asking open ended questions and listening deeply has a way of opening hearts and helping people discover more about themselves as they speak.
You might ask everyone in your family to write down interesting questions on slips of paper and drop them into a bowl. At the Thanksgiving meal, let the children take turns choosing a question for everyone at the table to answer in turn.
Stay curious, keep your sense of humor, and be open to where your family takes the conversation. Sometimes the unexpected tangents are where the magic happens!
Depending on the age of the child or children at your table, you might modify your question. But there's nothing wrong with kids giving simple answers and adults giving more complicated answers. The important thing is to listen to what a child has to say, to reflect that so that the child feels understood, and to let them elaborate or clarify if they want. Resist the urge to lecture or teach; just listen and appreciate. This is a great opportunity for your child to gain confidence in expressing him or herself -- and that confidence comes from the experience of having someone listen well.
Wondering what to ask? Here are a few suggestions to get you started. Remember, you won't need all of these. It only takes one good question to spark a meaningful conversation, but sometimes you have to try a few to find one that works.
- What does Thanksgiving mean to you? Is that any different for you this year?
- Do you think gratitude is important? Why?
- When you feel grateful, what do you notice about how you feel and engage with the world?
- Are there things that you were once unhappy about, that you are now grateful for?
- This has been a hard year for many people across the world. How can we honor that pain at the same time that we feel gratitude?
- Sometimes we learn the most from life events we would never have chosen. Have you had any of those this year? What did you learn?
- What do you hope that we have learned this year as a family?
- What do you hope the we have learned this year as a society?
- Who (or what) are you most grateful to have in your life? Has that changed at all this year?
- The origin myth of Thanksgiving includes connecting with people across racial and cultural divides, but most celebrations of the holiday ignore the legacy of violence toward Native Americans. Do you think there is a way to acknowledge that history in celebrating Thanksgiving?
- What is your favorite of our family traditions?
- What would you like to do more of in our family?
- What three words do you think best describe our family?
- When do you feel the most proud of our family?
- What do you appreciate about each person at the table?
- What is a quality you wish you could have more of?
- What challenge did you overcome this year?
- What things are you not great at yet that you want some day to be good at? How much do you think you would have to practice to get good at those things?
- If you could ask anyone for help, who would it be and why?
- What is your most treasured memory?
- When do you feel the most grateful?
What questions might you add to this list for your own family?
Are there other occasions beyond Thanksgiving when you could see using any of these questions to deepen the conversation