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Your Questions, Answered!

Posted on: June 22nd, 2012 by Anne Fishel, Ph.D

Welcome to “Ask The Family Dinner Project,” where we answer your family dinner questions!

In this edition, Dr. Anne K. Fishel (Director of the Family and Couples Therapy Program at Massachusetts General Hospital and an Associate Clinical Professor of Psychology at the Harvard Medical School) answers questions about toys at the table and wonky dinner schedules.

Toys at the Table

My child wants to play cars at the table, but I hesitate to let him do this. I was brought up in a home where playing was not encouraged at dinner. Is playing ok?

Family dinners should be fun, and there is definitely a place for play at dinner. But you’re right—cars at the table can distract from eating, and from participating in conversation with the rest of the family.

Before dinner, I might spend a couple of minutes with your child “feeding” the cars (with fuel), and then driving them to a garage in another room to “digest.” Then I’d declare, “Now it’s our turn!”

Really though, the question is: what makes dinner fun? For some kids, it’s making a placemat by drawing on pieces of computer paper. For others, it’s playing a game at the table. You could also have kids make a face out of a plate of raw veggies (after they’ve washed their hands, of course). Use red peppers, carrots, celery and olives to make eyes, nose, ears, mouth and hair!

Tricky Schedules

My kids get hungry at 5:30, but my husband doesn’t get home until 7:30. To solve this problem, I’ve been having “family dinner” with my kids, and then later, sitting down with my husband while he eats. As a result, I’ve put on 10 lbs in the last month! What can I do to change this dinner situation?

First, you are to be congratulated for going to such lengths to make family dinner happen! One thing you might do to resolve this problem is feed your children a hearty appetizer (or even a main course) when they get hungry.

Then, when your husband eats, have your kids join in with a healthy dessert like fruit salad. You could also stagger the meal—have an appetizer with your kids, and eat the main meal together when your husband arrives.

Or, challenge your kids to wait an hour and challenge your husband to come home an hour earlier. Meet in the middle and simplify your life!

Have a question of your own? Email stories@thefamilydinnerproject.org. Your question could be featured in our next edition of “Ask The Family Dinner Project”!

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