When asked what qualities they’d most like to see their children develop, parents often list courage or bravery among the top ten. It’s easy to see why: it seems as though anxiety is on the rise among both kids and adults. Increasingly, parents share their worries about kids who are too scared to sleep alone, go to school, climb to the top of the tallest playground slide, learn to swim, try a new activity, or any number of other rites of passage. We don’t know for sure what’s causing all this anxiety, but it’s clear that for many families, building courage is an important topic.
What does that have to do with family dinners? Well, for starters, the family dinner table is one of our most reliable daily opportunities to get a “temperature check” on our kids. By sitting down to a meal together, parents and kids get the necessary face-to-face contact to be able to tell whether someone’s feeling down, unusually tired or seeming as though they have a lot on their minds. It’s a perfect chance to check in on whether kids are overwhelmed or anxious, and to find out if something is worrying them.
Family dinner also gives parents a place to teach lessons and reinforce skills and ideals for their kids. Just by being together and combining food, fun and conversation, you can help kids develop character traits like resilience, empathy and yes, even bravery. Here are some ways to build up courage through your family dinners:
Gaining courage isn’t as easy as following a yellow brick road and asking a wizard for help, so be patient with your kids along the journey. Celebrate the small steps towards increased bravery, and be sure the praise effort rather than results. You may find you even start feeling a bit more bold yourself!
We’re taking a look back at our archives to recognize some families whose Real Family Dinner Project stories are good examples of courage in action! The Nelson Family and McGrath Family both had to be courageous through international moves, while Gabriela Townsend used her family dinners as a starting point for a brave and bold service project at her school.
Build kids’ courage and confidence in the kitchen by showing them how to safely use a vegetable peeler to make this colorful salad.
Sometimes kids don’t exhibit courage because they’re scared of failure. Turn “failure” into a celebration with this goofy game!
Get the courageous conversation flowing with these questions about bravery.