Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Home for Dinner: Mixing Food, Fun, and Conversation for a Happier Family and Healthier Kids

by Anne K. Fishel
AMACOM     2015
240 pages     Nonfiction
The Shortlist

Psychologist Dr. Anne Fishel has some sound  advice for families about how to create or enhance the dinner time experience. She begins the book Home for Dinner with her own family dinner table and cooking experiences. She realized the value of those dinner experiences and founded The Family Dinner Project as a way to promote the health and psychological benefits of the family dinner.

This is a book filled with sound family-nurturing advice. She includes a few basic recipes that families can make together, some conversation starters, and a lot of great advice for creating the sense of unity that we all want for our own families. Fishel acknowledges that this is not easy to pull off for many families, hampered as they are by sports, work schedules, and finances, but she asserts that the benefits far outweigh the difficulties. The dinner table is not the place to discuss undone homework, poor grades or poor behavior. It is not the place for the devices that populate our lives and isolate us from each other. It is a place to talk together, to tell stories, and to relate to each other as equals. She has chapters on simple games that can encourage conversation as well as ideas for story telling experiences that promote empathy, self-esteem, resilience, and enjoyment. Of course, she touts the benefits of the family dinner table as a way to promote healthier eating habits. 

Fishel was preaching to the choir to me because I have created and been a part of a lifetime of family dinners. And I have many stories to tell, including fond memories of dinners around the table at my grandparents, family dinners in my home as a child, and my own family dinners when I was a single parent. My husband insists on family meals; we actually call him "the breakfast Nazi" because he is so adamant about the value of a family breakfast. Now that that everyday breakfast includes just the two of us, we close breakfast every morning by reading to each other. We always have a book going. I know many families that also have that tradition of spending a few minutes reading together after dinner.

A couple of stories to close this entry. Over the years, I have had many family dinners with my son and his family. They eat together as a family several evenings a week. Their family dinner game is called "Best, Worst, Funniest." They go around the table and tell the best thing that happened that day, the worst thing that happened that day, and they end with the funniest thing that happened that day. I love that idea. 

The value of the family dinner resonates with my daughter and family whose tiny house has no room for a dinner table. Both she and her husband grew up with family dinners and she is actively searching for a house with a dining room so they can eat their meals at a real table, rather than the coffee table. One recent evening, they came over to eat at our house. I was going to set the kitchen table, but my 3-year-old granddaughter insisted on setting the dining room table. That, in her mind, is where family dinners happen.
Check out The Family Dinner Project for ideas on how to make your family dinners more successful.

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