How to encourage discussion during family home evening

I suggest the following:

  • Make family home evening fun. Add variety to family home evening. Use your imagination. Young people need to look forward to a great time.- Ask for their thoughts and ideas about a person they know who accomplished something related to the lesson. The children always have answers. Sometimes I have to stop conversation only because of time. They seem to want to go on and on.
  • Ask the children what they would do or how would they change a situation, and what would Heavenly Father want us to do. I always ask many questions. I go around the room, giving each person a chance to answer. Always keep eye contact with the person answering a question. I never give prizes or anything because I don't want anyone to feel inferior.
  • Don't ask questions that are too hard to answer. A family home evening I had recently was fun. I wanted to know how well the children and adults were remembering things they were being taught. I told them I was going to give them a little test on how they remembered names in the Book of Mormon. I got an "Oh no" look. I then told them I was going to show a short video about a part of the Book of Mormon. I showed them the video about Nephi and the brass plates. After they saw the video, they all received a slip of paper with a question on it. Another "Oh no" look. I had them all look at their question. Anyone who couldn't remember the answer had the opportunity to walk over to another person and exchange questions. It really worked out great. Everyone knew the answer to their question. And no one felt out of place. – Paula Jackson, Watertown, N.Y.

HOW WE DID IT:

Don't criticize

One way to encourage discussion during family home evening is to use a tactic that counselors use. Whenever anyone makes any kind of comment, say, "That's a good (or interesting) thought," or "I don't understand. Tell me more." Set a rule that no one is allowed to criticize or put down or ridicule anyone else during that time.

If anyone does mock or needle the person who speaks, use reinforcement, such as "Remember, when anyone speaks, whatever they say is a valid thought. We do not ridicule anyone who speaks."

After several weeks of consistent effort to make each person feel safe when they speak, the responses will start flowing. – Mariana Neff, Dallas, Texas

Relevant topics

In encouraging discussion during family home evening, we find that it's important to discuss topics that are relevant in our children's lives. To do this, we must do the following:

  • Know our children and what interests them. Activities in Church and school life are an excellent way to observe them as they interact in their element.
  • Be active in whatever they are into, such as soccer, baseball, dance, school, and Primary, Young Men and Young Women. We can also chaperon dances. Fortunately, we have been blessed with callings that put us in their lives.
  • Know their friends, without the appearance of intruding. We have four teenagers. By making their lives our lives and their activities our activities, we are able to plan family home evening activities that are relevant to all of us. Getting our children interested in discussion is just natural when the subjects are pertinent to their lives.
  • Take turns in the planning of family home evening. We have a rule that no one criticizes what's been planned. – David and Lynette Tunquist, Stockton, Calif.

Role playing

My husband and I agree that one thing we should do is discuss with the children what topics would promote discussion. It's important to include the family in the planning of family home evening and in the selection of topics.

We have varied ages of children. We find that the younger children really respond to role playing. If they are acting out something, they are participating.

In including older children, it's helpful to put them in charge of lessons. We found that we get the most participation from everyone when we put the older children in charge of getting the younger ones involved in role playing. In addition, this also seems to set the older children up as role models for the younger children. – Becky Landgrave, Florissant, Mo.

Value their opinions

One of the most important ingredients in getting young people involved in family home evening discussion is to value their opinions. Do not talk down to them.

In our family, we ask the children questions individually. In addition, what works for us is to present the opposing side of a discussion and get the children to defend their position. In this way, we find out they really do have knowledge of the subject. – Pat Quirl, Teton, Idaho

Ask questions

We let our children take turns giving lessons. This enhances communication during family home evening because of the differing points of view. When we, as parents, give the lessons, we try to ask questions that will involve everyone, according to their age and understanding. – Marie Spencer, Toccoa, Ga.

Personalizes topic

We always use the scriptures for family home evening at some point. One thing we've found helpful is after we've read a chapter, each member of our family takes a turn either asking a question about the chapter or making a comment. That way a topic discussed during family home evening is personalized. In addition, when they ask a question about a word, we end up discussing the explanations found in the topical guide or in the footnotes.

Depending on the topic, we discuss what happened in the scriptures during that period of time and what's happening in our time. For example, what can we learn from the mistakes that were made in the time of King Benjamin so we don't repeat the same mistakes in our time? – Ilene Vance, Sandy, Utah

Opinions are respected

My thoughts on encouraging discussion in family home evening can work whether children are living at home or not. Although our children are grown and gone from home now, my wife and I do gather for family home evening and discuss many topics, thoughts from books, government issues, religion, current events, material things and ideas. We listen to each other. All opinions are respected. We don't put anyone down.

After the discussion is over, we kneel to thank Heavenly Father for the blessings we each enjoy.

Our children do sometimes have family home evening with us, and these same principles apply then as well. – Gary Butikofer, Rigby, Idaho


HOW TO CHECKLIST:

1 Use scriptures in family home evening; discuss stories.

2 Discuss relevant topics; choose topics as a family.

3 Be aware of children's lives, challenges; be involved.

4 Have respect among family members; value opinions.


WRITE TO US:

Oct. 1 "How to help children learn to follow the counsel of Church leaders."

Oct. 15 "How to avoid making fun of others."

Oct. 22 "How to be financially self-reliant as a single parent."

Oct. 29 "How to help a loved one with a disability reach his or her potential."

Nov. 5 "How to cope with the heartache of miscarriage."

Nov. 12 "How to engender understanding of differing religious beliefs among family members and loved ones."

Had any good experiences or practical success in any of the above subjects? Share them with our readers in about 100-150 words. Write the "How-to" editor, Church News, P.O. Box 1257, Salt Lake City, Utah 84110, or send fax to (801) 237-2121. Please include a name and phone number. Contributions may be edited or excerpted and will not be returned. Due to limited space, some contributions may not be used; those used should not be regarded as official Church doctrine or policy. Material must be received at least 12 days before publication date.