Illinois Association for Gifted Children

IAGC Question of the Month - December 2020: What is the Best "Food For Thought" To Help Nourish My Advanced Learner During Winter Break?

12/15/2020 7:20 PM | Anonymous member

The pandemic has brought with it many challenges for families, and the end of 2020 brings hope for a better year ahead and a vaccine. In the meantime, with restaurant closings and social distancing, many families are likely to find themselves spending the holidays at home. As we adjust our holiday traditions to spend time together with our immediate families, there are some positive implications-- such as having the time to spend family dinner hour together.

Unfortunately, economic and time barriers present challenges for many families that make having dinner together something that cannot be taken for granted. In fact, since 2010, a non-profit initiative, the Family Dinner Project has shared resources and information to support family dinner hours. This is because research shows that having family dinners together has immense benefits for children including the following:

  • Better academic performance

  • Higher self-esteem

  • Greater sense of resilience

  • Lower risk of substance abuse

  • Lower risk of teen pregnancy

  • Lower risk of depression

  • Lower likelihood of developing eating disorders

  • Lower rates of obesity

Above list quoted from  “Benefits of Family Dinners,” Family Dinner Project website. 

For parents and families of advanced learners, family dinner conversation provides an opportunity to support the development of positive psychosocial skills because it enables families to reflect together on daily goals, challenges, and successes. 

In IAGC’s July 2020 and August 2020 “Question of the Month” blog posts, Dr. Olszewski-Kubilius, the director of the Center for Talent Development at Northwestern University and a professor in the School of Education and Social Policy, suggests ten psychosocial skills that support success at high levels of achievement. Among the ten skills she highlights are grit, self-control, finding meaningfulness in learning, developing appropriate attitudes toward work and ability, resilience, optimism, and the ability to deal with stress and control anxiety. Many of these dispositions and skills can be modeled and discussed through our daily conversations at the dinner table. Consider the following common simple conversations that may arise when families share their “daily happenings'':

  • Today I made a mistake at school/work, but I learned ______, and I have a few ideas for fixing it tomorrow. (grit, optimism)

  • The lasagne I made today is not perfect because I did not add enough spice, but it tastes pretty good. It’s fun to try a new recipe. (finding meaningfulness in learning)

  • It sounds like you are struggling with your writing assignment this week. It can take time to develop writing skills. What questions do you think you could ask your teacher that might help? (developing appropriate attitudes toward work and ability)

  • I was really upset that I made a mistake in my presentation today, but I took a few deep breaths, asked for a moment to consult my notes, and managed as best I could.What else could I have done to stay calm “in the moment?” (self-control)

  • I understand that you are worried that you will not make the team. Would you like to talk about it? (deal with stress; control anxiety; resilience)

  • You worked very hard in school this week. You must be proud. What makes you the happiest about your accomplishment? (finding meaningfulness in learning; developing appropriate attitudes toward work and ability)

  • I have so many things to do to get ready for the holidays. I made a list so that I could prioritize. Can any of you help me with ideas for these two gifts? (dealing with stress)

  • I have a really funny story from today that made me laugh...

By listening to our children, encouraging them to reflect, and modeling by sharing our own reflections, parents can support positive dispositions and attitudes toward learning that last a lifetime. 

And as we embrace additional time to linger at family dinners, laugh, share what is on our minds, brainstorm solutions, and explore different perspectives, we may resolve that this nutritious “food for thought” remains on the menu throughout 2021.

-Patricia Steinmeyer

Executive Director, IAGC

See Anderson, J. (April, 1, 2020). “Harvard EdCast: The Benefit of Family Mealtime - Anne Fishel, executive director of the Family Dinner Project, helps families find fun, creative, and easy ways to make meals a reality.”Harvard Graduate School of Education News & Events.

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