How to make dinnertime a priority for your family
Do you have dinner with your kids? It’s become almost a luxury today, with our crammed schedules. And yet, numerous studies show that no other hour in your children’s day will deliver as many emotional and psychological benefits as the one spent unwinding and connecting over food and conversation.
“A nightly commitment to family dinners can be transformative,” says Anne K. Fishel, Ph.D., therapist, cofounder of Family Dinner Project, and author of “Home for Dinner, Mixing Food, Fun, and Conversation for a Happier Family and Healthier Kids,” (AMACOM).
Amongst finicky eaters, defiant teens and the lure of fast food, how can home cooking and family dinner be your household’s priority?
In her new book, Fishel shares strategies for busy parents to overcome family dinnertime hurdles. Here she shares a few parenting insights:
A family meal is an excellent opportunity to connect with your children. Foster dinner conversation by making the family table a technology-free zone. You may find that parents have a harder time than kids turning off their gadgets.
Throughout your day, collect stories that might amuse your children, such as something mischievous the dog did. Starting by telling as story yourself can get the conversation rolling.
Ask questions that demonstrate you’ve been paying attention. For example, “I know that today was your first art class. What was it like?”
To deepen 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.
Trying New Things
Don’t underestimate your child’s taste buds. The idea that young children and adults must eat different foods might be a myth created by food manufacturers and marketers. Your child might like chicken piccata
as much as chicken fingers.
Entice picky eaters by modeling adventurous eating. Eat the new food with gusto, and then ask, “Would you like to taste it? Can you describe the taste?” This focuses your child’s attention on the food, rather than on rejecting it.
Avoid letting food become a power struggle. If your child refuses a particular meal, stay calm and offer an alternative such as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich – nothing that makes much extra work for you.
Ask kids to help with meal preparation. Spinning salad greens and setting the timer are some of the many things young children can do. For older kids, do a role reversal one night a week and have them do the cooking.
It can be fun to re-create meals kids have seen advertised on TV or eaten in restaurants. For example, most supermarkets offer ready-made pizza dough. Combined with tomato sauce from a jar, it’s simple to make pizza at home.
Let teens choose music to listen to during dinner. On other nights, play music you listened to as a teenager.
For more dinnertime insights, and information about the book, visitamacombooks.org/HomeForDinner.htm.
Family dinner offers more than just nutrition. Food may bring everyone to the table, but it is the fun and conversation that will keep them there.
Create a healthy ecosystem in your own backyard
This spring season, help promote a healthy ecosystem by learning to identify and control damaging plants and insects in your yard.
Information about common invasive species and backyard invaders is now being offered by Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment (RISE):
Invasive weeds can out-compete native species, changing the local ecosystem. Many varieties, first introduced as flora to plant in gardens, can be confused with similar, native varieties. Here are two common damaging ones to watch out for:
• Purple Loosestrife, below right, native to Europe and Asia, is found in most states. One plant can produce more than two million seeds annually.
• Native to China, the Tree-of-Heaven was widely planted as an ornamental plant for many years and is often confused with other trees having similar leaves, such as black walnut, butternut, and most sumac.
Invasive insects can also have a severe negative impact on native species by out-competing them for food and resources. Many also cause and carry disease and prey on native species. Two common ones to look out for include:
• Emerald Ash Borer, native to Asia, is prominently found across the Northeast, Midwest, and Southeastern United States. The larvae do the most damage, killing ash trees by feeding on the inner bark.
• Zebra Mussel, native to lakes in southern Russia, is found in hundreds of waterways throughout the United States. The species commonly clog water intakes, damage boats, and can cause cuts and scrapes if they grow on rocks, swim rafts, and ladders.
Did you know native plants and insects can cause damage too?
• Ticks can transmit Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Left untreated, Lyme disease infects the joints, heart, and nervous system. After time spent outdoors, check for ticks, especially in and around your ears, inside your belly button, behind your knees, around your waist, on your scalp, and in your hair.
• Mosquitoes can carry West Nile Virus. While most people may show few symptoms, 20 percent of people develop a fever along with headaches, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea or rash, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Follow the “five Ds” to protect yourself: Drain standing water; Stay indoors at Dusk and Dawn; Dress in long-sleeves and pants; and use DEET-based mosquito repellent.
• Poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac can lurk in backyards. Almost 85 percent of people develop a rash when they come into contact with these weeds.
Control poisonous weeds long-term by carefully digging out the plants while wearing waterproof gloves or treating with a pesticide.
Defend your local ecosystem by identifying exotic plants in your garden or yard. Spot invasive weeds and insects in your area? Let your county extension office know, which may have a monitoring and management program in place.
For more lawn and garden tips, visit www.DebugTheMyths.com.
By being aware of invasive species and other pests in your area, you can help support native species and a healthy ecosystem in your own backyard and neighborhood.
The season’s least breakable tablets
People of all ages and lifestyles use tablets for just about everything. Unfortunately, the way we use these fragile devices often puts them at risk for breaking, and certain models are more susceptible to going kaput.
To help shoppers make smart decisions, SquareTrade, a protection plan provider for tablets, smartphones and other electronics, decided to find out how durable the most popular tablets are. Evaluating key elements such as front and back panel design, edge construction and materials, size, weight, “slide-ability,” water resistance and “grip-ability,” SquareTrade’s Breakability Score tests devices in everyday danger situations brought on by our lifestyles and habits.
Overall, larger tablets proved to be far more breakable than smaller ones, as well as the least water resistant.
No matter how durable your device is, accidents do happen and an affordable protection plan can help you protect your pricey tablet investment. More information can be found at SquareTrade.com.
If you’re buying a new tablet, make sure you research your options first, and consider adding a protection plan.
Reports and photos from StatePoint