Each year, more than 9 in 10 Americans gather around the table with family and friends for Thanksgiving. But only 50 percent of us eat with our family on a regular basis. That’s too bad. Twenty years of research has shown that family dinners are great for the brain (enhancing preschool vocabulary and raising test scores), body (improving cardiovascular health in teens and lowering the odds of obesity) and spirit (reducing rates of behavioral problems, stress and substance abuse). But in extolling the virtues of the family dinner, we may have obscured what the meal is actually about and why it serves parents and children. In that gap lies a thick stew of myths.
1. Teens don’t want to eat with their parents
2. Family dinners are anti-feminist
3. Family dinners depend on a homemade meal
4. Families don’t have time to pull it off
5. Food fights make family dinners impossible
Read the article in full and find out what Dr. Fishel has to say about these five common family dinner myths on The Washington Post.
In a recent Boston Globe article, Dr. Fishel spoke about a new Canadian study linking family dinners to lower BMI and better cardiovascular health indicators in children and teens.
“If kids aren’t welcomed into the conversation, or if there’s criticism, you’re not going to see the benefits,” said Fishel, author of the book “Home for Dinner: Mixing Food, Fun, and Conversation for a Happier Family and Healthier Kids.” “There’s nothing magical about lasagna in itself.”
Among other points made in the interview, Dr. Fishel offered suggestions for families who may be too busy to gather around the dinner table every night. She also encouraged parents to involve kids actively in food preparation, which can lighten the workload as well as heighten children’s interest in family meals by giving them ownership of the process.
When Americans gather together around a table groaning with favorite dishes on the fourth Thursday of November, what are we doing beyond filling our bellies with turkey and pie? We convened four experts in the psychology of family traditions and shared meals for a roundtable discussion about what ritual means in the context of Thanksgiving.
Anne Fishel, psychologist and author of Home for Dinner: I think of Thanksgiving as the mother of all family dinners. As a ritual, it has all the important ingredients – a prescribed time and place; aspects that are predictable and repeated year after year (signature foods) and some that are novel (guests added and departed, new family stories and arguments); and meaning conveyed through symbols. Each year, families come together to revisit something familiar but keep adding new layers of meaning, so that the ritual is reinterpreted….
Read the entire article, with input from experts Janine Roberts, Barbara Fiese and Bill Doherty alongside Dr. Anne Fishel, on The Conversation.
Dr. Fishel has written extensively about the many benefits of family dinners, including a boost in literacy skills for kids, and how to use dinnertime as a fun opportunity to encourage reading. At this workshop, participants will eat foods from favorite children’s books, have conversations about reading, and have fun telling their own stories.
What’s your favorite food from a book? Green eggs and ham, Strega Nona’s magic noodles, or clam chowder from Moby Dick? Come eat, talk, and explore the many connections between dinner and reading.
4:30 p.m. Thursday, 10/22/15
South End Library, 685 Tremont Street, Boston
Space is limited — please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish to attend.
Last week, Dr. Fishel had the pleasure of appearing as a guest on the Mom Enough radio show to weigh in on the importance of family dinners. During the show, entitled “The Why and How of Mealtimes that Build Health and Happiness for You and Your Family,” Dr. Fishel spoke about the many benefits of family meals; how to work around the common challenges that often stand in the way of having regular dinners together; tips for making the family table a more enjoyable place to be; and much more. The Mom Enough hosts were so excited by the interview that they say they’ll be listening to the audio recording at least once a month from now on to remind themselves of the many ways they can transform dinnertime in their own homes!
Find out more about the interview and the Mom Enough radio show, and hear the full audio recording of Dr. Fishel’s appearance, on MomEnough.com.
Of course, it’s food that gets everyone to the table, but isn’t it the conversation and the stories that keep us there? The many documented benefits of family dinners — lower rates of depression, substance abuse and stress, and higher achievement scores, positive mood and self-esteem — don’t derive from how many hours you spent cooking the dinner and it doesn’t matter if you use heirloom parsnips. No, it’s almost certainly the conversation around the table that we have to thank for all those benefits to our health and wellbeing.
Conversation comes in several different flavors: Questions that ask about the day, storytelling and games.
Read the full article, and get some of Dr. Fishel’s best tips and ideas for making family dinner a time everyone will love, at DrGreene.com.
On June 1, 2015, Dr. Anne Fishel will be joining the regular Dr. Greene “Let’s Talk Kids’ Health” Twitter chat to discuss the importance of family dinners. The chat, titled The Power of Family Dinner, will take place at 9 p.m. EST under the hashtag #LTKH.
Dr. Fishel will be lending her expertise to subjects such as:
The impact of family dinners on teen behavior
What research shows about the health benefits of family dinners
How conversation at the dinner table benefits kids
And many other important topics! We hope you’ll join in the chat and invite your friends and family to participate as well.