Home for Dinner

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

 Home for Dinner

Author: Anne K. Fishel, Ph.D.
Pub Date: January 2015
Print Edition: $16.00
Print ISBN: 9780814433706
Page Count: 240
Format: Paper or Softback
e-Book ISBN: 9780814433713

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Tips for Encouraging Kids to Talk and Listen at the Dinner Table

Food-related remarks, like “Pass the salt.” One-word answers to “How was your day?” In most families, that’s dinner table talk. “A steady diet of ‘how was your day’ questions can feel like eating the same meal night after night,” notes Anne K. Fishel, Ph.D., therapist, community organizer, and mom. In her new book, HOME FOR DINNER (AMACOM 2015), Dr. Fishel shares tips for adding variety to dinnertime conversation and encouraging kids to talk and think, listen and learn:

• Ask a question that demonstrates you’ve been paying attention to the details of your child’s life. For example, “I know that today was your first art class. What was it like?”

• As your day rolls along, collect small stories that might interest or amuse your children, such as something mischievous the dog did or a funny exchange with a co-worker. Starting with light anecdotes often helps get the conversation rolling,

• Tell stories about your own childhood or about previous generations in the family. Such stories give children a sense of belonging. They can also be used to promote values such as empathy, resilience, and self-esteem.

• Make conversation a game. Cut up dozens of strips of paper. On each one, write a conversation starter. Possibilities include: What is your best personality trait? If you had three wishes, what would they be? Do you know how your name was chosen? Where do you feel most relaxed? Stuff the slips into a jar. When conversation lags, suggest that someone pull out a slip and answer the question. Other family members can answer the same question or pull out another slip.

• To deepen the conversation, turn to daily media content. For example, elections can prompt discussions about how democracy works. Scandals can provide fodder for talk about truth-telling. News about an abusive coach can prompt conversation about what inspires athletes to play better and what behavior is off-limits.

• Turn to the calendar. On Thanksgiving, for example, ask children to talk about what they’re grateful for, and what kind of giving family you are or want to be.

• Expand on routine food-related remarks. Ask your kids to imagine what could improve the taste of the dinner, or ask them to brainstorm other meals that could use the same ingredients. Ask them to think of all the people who were involved in getting a particular food to the dinner table. As a last conversation topic, there’s always, “What shall we have for dinner tomorrow night?”

Adapted from HOME FOR DINNER: Mixing Food, Fun, and Conversation for a Happier Family and Healthier Kids by Anne K. Fishel, Ph.D. (AMACOM 2015; 978-0-8144-3370-6).

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