Psychologist Finds Therapeutic Role for Family Dinners

Jul07

Anne Fishel

Psychologist Anne Fishel prepares dinner. Credit: Ginger Chappell

It’s Saturday evening and the smell of roast turkey fills Anne Fishel’s kitchen. Her husband Chris removes the turkey from the oven while Fishel prepares the traditional Passover matzoh ball soup. She dips her hand in water and then places it in a bowl with the sticky matzoh dough. She takes a handful of dough, molds it into the shape of ping pong balls, then boils them in chicken broth. Finally, Fishel serves her family, gathered around the dining room table.

Dinners are more than a Saturday family gathering for Fishel, a clinical psychologist, professor and director of the Family and Couples Therapy Program at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). She studies how family dinners contribute to children’s cognitive and personal development, as well as how they strengthen the bond between children and parents. As dinner is typically a daily routine, Fishel can observe a family’s dynamic and propose solutions tailored to their needs. “Dr. Fishel’s work outlines how the family dinner can serve as an invaluable tool in the assessment and treatment of families in any school of family therapy,” says David Rubin, a psychiatrist at Cornell Medical Center in New York.

For the past 25 years, Fishel has been treating couples and families as a clinical psychologist at her office in Newton Highlands, Massachusetts. She recently began taking a close look at dinner rituals, because meals are family routines that help a therapist understand important aspects of families and make interventions easier. “Patients feel more comfortable answering questions about their dinner than about their sex life or the family roles,” she says.

“Food experiences function not only as a means of physically nourishing a child, but also as a form of emotional nourishment,” says Laura Weisberg, a psychologist at Duke Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina and an expert in eating disorders. Family dinners, according to several psychological studies, show fascinating positive behavioral impacts on children of all ages. Lower rates of substance abuse, depression, pregnancy, alcoholism and eating disorders are just some examples of the long list of positive effects of family dinners. For vulnerable children, not having family meals on a regular basis “makes it easier to begin a pattern of skipping meals, or eating in unhealthy ways, which can then get out of control before the family has an opportunity to recognize it,” says Weisberg. This body of research is so impressive that Fishel almost wants to tell her patients, “Don’t waste your time in therapy-go home right now and cook a meal and eat it together. Here are some recipes, now go!”

Research about the impact of family meals to children’s language and literacy development also caught Fishel’s attention. Although both parents and pediatricians believe that reading is the best way to teach children new vocabulary words, a new study by Catherine Snow of the Harvard Education School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, shows that the best way to build a child’s vocabulary is through regular family meals. “The use of relatively sophisticated vocabulary at family mealtimes predicted children’s later vocabulary knowledge better than in other settings -book reading, toy play, or story telling,” says Snow, an expert on children’s language and literacy development.

To keep children at the table, Fishel proposes maximizing the pleasure of dinner time. Parents can engage younger kids by playing word games or guessing what ingredients are in a meal. In dealing with teenagers, Fishel suggests avoiding discussions that would bring conflict to dinner. Instead she encourages parents to discuss their daily experiences in an honest and self-disclosing way, inviting children to participate in the conversation. After all, dinners are family rituals, whose purpose is to “create a feeling of warm connection among its members,” Fishel says.

Fishel’s family meals are a synonym of joy and creativity, “something that connects everybody up,” she says. Her two college age sons are very demanding eaters, but “I like the way they push me to be creative and adventurous,” she says. Her favorite meals to prepare are those made with a lot of ingredients cooked together in a pot. She loves making soups, such as squash-apple-onion or swordfish stew with pine nuts, tomatoes and raisins. “These foods are very cozy and connected; the flavors are distinct like the different members of the family.” But, both the ingredients in the soup and the members of the family “are made better by being together,” she adds.

To read the full story by Staff Writer Aspasia Daskalopoulou, visit the Contributions page.

Posted by Joseph, under health (mental), profile  |  Date: July 7, 2008
2,316 Comments »

2,316 Responses to “Psychologist Finds Therapeutic Role for Family Dinners”

  1. Porn Star Movies Says:

    watch Porn Movies online http://hdmaza.pk/

  2. sejarah Says:

    Hello everyone, it’s my first pay a quick visit at this web site, and article is in fact fruitful in favor
    of me, keep up posting these types of posts.

  3. beinga doctor Says:

    Deliberately park your car away from the entrance to force you
    to take a bit of a walk to get to your car everyday.
    Thus, the more muscle you build, the more you can help yourself
    shed those nasty looking fats. Remember to take one day at a time and not to get
    overwhelmed by the challenge.

  4. men's health and fitness Says:

    A key characteristic of arcade racers that specifically
    distinguishes them from simulation racers is their much more liberal physics.
    Due to thick oil in cold weather, engines crank harder and this effectively increases
    the load on the battery. German cars have a much smaller “buffer zone”.

  5. homepage Says:

    Valuable info. Fortunate me I found your web site by accident, and I am shocked why this accident didn’t took place in advance!
    I bookmarked it.

  6. prosperity Says:

    The potential of RSS within the field of education had been.

  7. clicking here Says:

    I’ve read some just right stuff here. Definitely price bookmarking
    for revisiting. I surprise how much attempt you
    put to make this sort of excellent informative
    website.

  8. fiestas privadas en videos Says:

    los mejores videos totalmente gratis

  9. voodoo-mademoiselle.tumblr.com Says:

    Get testimonials from the clients you already worked
    with, about your work and experiences. Thirdly, the search engines need
    legit companies to do site optimization. Your baseline will tell you where your
    company began so you can measure positive or negative ROI (return on your investment).
    A reputable SEO company won’t have any qualms about connecting potential
    clients with former ones.

    my site voodoo-mademoiselle.tumblr.com

  10. Www.Behance.net Says:

    Fine way of describing, and good paragraph to get information concerning my
    presentation topic, which i am going to present in college.

  11. friv Says:

    If you are going for best contents like I do, simply
    go to see this web page every day since it gives quality contents, thanks

  12. www.resurrectionmission.org Says:

    Adults who eat excessive-fat meats or complete-milk dairy products at each meal are probably eating
    an excessive amount of fats.

  13. latest hollywood news Says:

    Hi, I want to subscribe for this weblog to get latest updates, so
    where can i do it please assist.

  14. Deanne Says:

    O? my goodness! Incredible article du?e! Thanks, Howe?er
    I am going t?rough problems with your RSS. I don’t understand why I can’t join ?t.
    Is there anybody having t?e same RSS pro?lems? Anybod? who knows the solution ?ill you
    kindly respond? ?hanks!!

  15. Porno gratis en Sevilla Says:

    Por nuestra experiencia, son ya muchos años dedicados al entretenimiento de los peques, cuidamos todos los detalles

  16. pornotube x vdeos Says:

    Enjoy the best quality hd porn videos, hundreds of videos added daily and completely free

Leave a Reply

google

couk