Family dinner is more than food
In the mid-1990s, Marshall was asked to become a member of a new project devoted to myths and rituals in American families.
“At that time, many studies were conducted on the issue of the collapse of families,” he says. – But we were more interesting than others: what can families do to resist these destructive processes.
Soon, the wife of Marshall Sarah, she is a psychologist, works with children who have difficulty in learning, – observing their students, came to the following conclusion: “Those who know much about their family are better able to cope with the difficulties they face.” Her husband was intrigued by this discovery and, together with his colleague Robin Fives, decided to test Sarah’s hypothesis. They have developed a special questionnaire called “Do you Know?”. The children had to answer 20 questions, including the following:
Do you know where your grandmother and grandfather grew up?
And do you know in what city were your mother and dad at school?
Do you know where your parents met?
And do you know about some kind of illness or something really awful, that when it happened in your family?
Do you know how it came to light?
In the summer of 2001, Marshall and Robin asked these questions to children from more than 40 families and also recorded several dinner conversations on the film. Then they compared the results with a series of psychological tests and came to a stunning conclusion: the more children were aware of the history of their family, the more they had a sense of control over their lives, higher self-esteem and the more efficiently they thought their families functioned. The scale “Do you know?” Turned out to be the best prognostic indicator of emotional health and happiness of children.
And then something unexpected happened. Two months later, a tragedy occurred on September 11. Marshall and Robin were shocked by what had happened, just like everyone else, but as psychologists realized that they had a rare opportunity: because the families interviewed by them experienced the same psychological trauma at one and the same time. They asked the children again.
“And again,” Marshall says, “those who knew more about their families were more resistant, in other words, they were better able to cope with the consequences of stress.
How is the information about what kind of school the grandmother went to can help the child to cope with something insignificant like a booted knee or really serious, such as a terrorist attack? And what role do cooking meals and other family rituals play in getting children of this knowledge?
“Answers to such questions are related to whether the child recognizes himself as part of a large family,” explains Marshall.
Psychologists have discovered that each family has some kind of unifying history that relates to one of the three types. The first type is the upward family history: “Son, when we arrived in this country, we had nothing. Our family worked hard. We opened the bench. Your grandfather was in high school. Your father went to college. And now you … ”
The second type is a descending story: “Dear, we once had everything. And then we all lost … ”
The third type of family history, as Marshall notes, is the most healthy one. This is a variation story. “Dear, I want to tell you that our family had ups and downs. We have created a family business. Your grandfather was the soul of the team. Your mother was a member of the board of the hospital. But we also had recessions. Your uncle was once arrested. The family had a house that had burnt down. Your father lost his job. But whatever happens, we have always been together. ”
Marshall states that children who are mentally balanced and self-confident have the same meaning that he and Robin are called strong inter-generative “I”. They know that they belong to something more than to themselves.
According to Marshall, one of the central roles in this scheme belongs to the grandmother. She will say: “You have problems with mathematics, baby? Do you know that your father was also heavily burdened? ” “You do not want to learn to play the piano? Yes, your aunt Laura also refused to engage in music. ”
“We call it grandma’s fairy tales,” Marshall says. – Whatever problems the child encounters, the grandmother has this story about her, even if she is invented!
Marshall and Robin emphasize that dinner is the most appropriate time to tell children episodes from the history of the family. Everyone is gathered together in a calm setting; It’s easier for children to listen to the ups and downs of their families when they are surrounded by care and are busy with something life-affirming. But there is nothing more life-affirming than food.
But the benefit, as Marshall claims, brings not so much the supper. In the process of listening to all these ancient stories, there is a sense of unity and emotional stability. In addition, it is important for the child to see himself in the context of the family. In other words, when we talk about a family dinner, in fact, it’s not about dinner at all. Speech about the family.
According to Marshall, any events and events are a great opportunity to tell a story from a family’s life. This includes holidays, family trips, and other joint classes,