The Greenfield, MA Recorder Covers Dr. Fishel’s Visit

familywithteensAfter Dr. Fishel’s recent lecture to Communities that Care in Franklin County, MA, the local news recapped her visit with an article in the Greenfield Recorder.

As the article relates, “In Franklin County, the most recent annual survey of teens shows that 58 percent of teens report that they have dinner with their families four or more nights a week — and that among those teens, there’s a dramatic correlation with lower use of alcohol, cigarettes and marijuana, a lower risk of depression and stronger connections with parents, along with a higher consumption of fruit.” Building upon that local research and the numerous other studies that have shown the benefits of family dinner for both children and adults, Dr. Fishel gave a talk to school and human services workers who deal directly with families to encourage them to help their clients make dinnertime a priority.

Read the account of Dr. Fishel’s lecture and community dinner in The Greenfield Recorder.

Dr. Fishel on the Live Happy Podcast

smilingpieRecently, Dr. Fishel was honored to appear as a guest on the Live Happy podcast, talking about family dinners and discussing her book with listeners. In the episode, Dr. Fishel offers research, wisdom and advice about:

  • Why regular family dinners are great for the body, brain and the spirit
  • Tips for thriving conversation around the dinner table
  • Why playing with your food is beneficial to mental health
  • Ideas to overcome picky eaters, busy schedules and tension at the table

Listen to the podcast on the Live Happy site.

Join Dr. Fishel at Boston Book Festival

On Thursday, October 22, 2015, parents and children ages 3-10 can join Dr. Anne Fishel for a fun interactive workshop at the South End Library, presented in conjunction with The Family Dinner Project as part of the Boston Book Festival.

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 paromita@thefamilydinnerproject.org if you wish to attend.

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Talking Trash at the Table

food wasteAs Earth Day approaches, I’d love to see families embracing dinner talk about garbage. Wasted food – uneaten on our plates, rotting in the refrigerator, thrown out by supermarkets, abandoned on farms because it’s “ugly” – is a topic that can spark lively conversation and lead to activism.

My well-intentioned mother used to try to coax me to “clean my plate,” by reminding me that there were starving children in Africa. This is not the best way to get the conversation going at your table! First of all, the advice to join the “clean plate club” is ill-advised: it may mean that children overeat, rather than paying attention to when they feel full. And, unless you are prepared to send uneaten food to needy people, the connection between your child’s plate and starving children far away is pretty shaky.

So, here’s a better way…

See Dr. Fishel’s tips on helping your family to better understand the impact of food waste on the environment, plus 8 smart ways to take action at the dinner table, on The Family Dinner Project.

Instead of therapy, put a little Thanksgiving into your everyday dinners

thanksgivingturkeyWhen a colleague recently told me about her Thanksgiving tradition, it got me thinking about family dinners — a topic I consider every night around 7 pm and with every patient I see in family therapy.

Indeed, as a mental health provider, I sometimes feel I’d go out of business if families had regular dinners with one another. Truly. There are dozens of research studies that show that frequent family dinners promote kids’ mental and emotional well being — by lowering rates of depression, anxiety, eating disorders and substance abuse, for starters. Family meals also strengthen children’s resilience, self-esteem and sense of connectedness to their parents. Isn’t that exactly the goal of therapy?

It’s no wonder that I often have to stifle the urge to say, ‘Stop wasting your time here. Go home and eat dinner together.’

But, I’m well aware of how hard it is for busy, harried families to find time to sit down to dinner, and I’m always looking for new ways to unlock the benefits without adding any guilt or pressure. So, that is why my colleague’s remarks sparked my interest. Here’s what she said….”

Read the rest of this post on Commonhealth, or listen to the additional podcast below. Then tell us: What is your experience with the impact of family dinners on your own mental health? Do you find that family dinner makes you happier, or is there something about your family dinner experience that could use a bit of work?

 

Avoiding One-Word Answers

sullenkidI don’t know about you, but when I come home from a long day at work, I like to change my clothes, grab a handful of almonds (or cookies if it’s been a particularly challenging day), and curl up with the newspaper. I’d rather not answer a whole lot of questions until I’ve had a chance to decompress. I think many children may feel something similar after a long day at school.

And there may be other reasons why kids are monosyllabic. It could be that they’ve been answering questions all day and now want a break, or that they’re so hungry and tired that one word is all they can muster. Perhaps they’ve got a lot on their mind, and the question you asked isn’t interesting to them. Or maybe they just don’t feel like talking, but want your quiet company.

Of course, it’s impossible to know if your child won’t tell you, which is the Catch-22. Here are a few tips that have worked for me over the years with my children, and with child patients who are sometimes reluctant to volunteer information. I can’t guarantee that they will always work, or work for every child. Only you know your child well enough to predict which, if any, of these approaches may help you and your child have more after school conversation.

  • A hungry child is often a silent child. If he’s running on empty, it’s hard to summon the energy to tell stories about school. It may be best to hold all questions until he’s sitting down with a snack.
  • As your day rolls along, try collecting small stories that may interest or amuse your children, like something mischievous the dog did during the day, a funny exchange with a neighbor, or your worry about almost running out of gas. Then, when you reunite with your child, start with a story of your own. This kind of modeling often helps get the ball rolling, and means that you are offering something before asking for something.

Get more tips on avoiding one-word answers at The Family Dinner Project