Anne K. Fishel, Ph.D.
When 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 colleagues remarks sparked my interest. Here’s what she said:
“My sisters and I love Thanksgiving so much that our father makes a Thanksgiving-like meal throughout the year that he dubs ‘Harvest Dinner.’ We just can’t get enough of his mashed potatoes!”
I love the idea of bringing the special quality and spirit of Thanksgiving dinner to everyday meals. Two elements could easily translate to everyday dinners: sharing the workload, and focusing on more than just food. Continue reading