For decades, research has touted the benefits of regular family mealtimes on children, even though only about 30% of families regularly find time to eat together. Now, with families stuck at home due to the coronavirus, Anne Fishel, the executive director of the Family Dinner Project, stressed how family meals can become a centerpiece of each day. “Family mealtime is more important than ever during this time of stress and uncertainty,” Fishel says. “Adults and children alike need rituals, like family dinner, to offer stability and predictability and a chance to experience ourselves as a family.”
In this week’s edition of the Harvard EdCast, Fishel spoke about the benefits of family dinner, what makes it so challenging to come together for regular mealtime, and how to make it easier and more creative for families — with advice (see below) on being flexible in these unusual times.
The Family Dinner Project just released a virtual dinner party guide to help families connect with grandparents or other friends and relatives — complete with after-dinner games.
- Another new tip sheet from the Family Dinner Project has easy recipes for pantry cooking and cooking with kids, as well as creative strategies for family fun, collaborative learning games, and games to play with remote family and loved ones over digital conferencing calls.
- With so many families at home together daily, Fishel encourages families to be flexible about conversation. For example, she says it won’t always work to ask, “How was your day?” Instead, play a game of rose, thorn, and bud: Take turns talking about your “roses” (things you’re grateful for or that make you happy at the moment), “thorns” (something that’s a disappointment or a difficult moment from the day), and “buds” (something you’re looking forward to).
- Relax some of the typical rules like banning TV or technology at the table. “Watching a movie together at dinner may bring much needed outside stimuli and a chance to relax and laugh together,” she says.
Read more in our ongoing series, Confronting the Coronavirus Outbreak, on how schools and communities can prepare and respond, support young people, build resilience, and keep the learning going.