Dinner On Us

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Families of Dinner On Us

April 1, 2013—At 5:20PM, the Dinner On Us event, held by the Office of Family Resources, began in the Earthfoods Café.

The scent of cheese pizza and the squeals of laughing and crying children flowed through the air. The energy in the room was high and the feeling of controlled chaos overpowering.

“Hi Katie,” exclaimed Erika Loper, the Lead Teacher at the Amherst Family Center, as well as the Teacher of the children at the Dinner On Us event. She looked at Katie, a young child at the event and asked, “did you ride in on your dragon today?” Katie stared up at Erika with her light brown eyes and short, dark brown hair, and with a quiet reservation nodded yes. Katie is just one child of a total of 38 adults, who attended this Monday’s event.

The Dinner On Us program provides Amherst Family Center families, as well as UMass students, and undergraduates an opportunity to learn more about parenting and family relations. With workshops offered nearly every Monday evening according to the Office of Family Resources website, over the course of one semester, the program is able to offer lessons on a variety of topics.

Today’s workshop was devoted to “Television’s and Electronic Media Impact on Young Children and on Parent-Child Interactions.” Professor Emeritus, Daniel Anderson, of UMass Amherst led this hour-and-a-half discussion. Professor Anderson focused his attention on the impact of educational television and background television, on a child’s development based on their age group.

A substantial portion of his presentation addressed the studies that his lab has conducted in discovering how television impacts children under 12 months, under 24 months, and under 3 years. Additionally however, Professor Anderson provided suggestions for the parents with reference to their particular family situations and questions.

One family asked that Professor Anderson speak to how parents should address commercials that may appear appealing, but do not offer the message parents wish to suggest. With the example of a McDonald’s commercial in mind, Professor Anderson told the parent that telling a child that McDonald’s is bad after the commercial airs is, in fact, more effective than saying nothing at all. The words a parent uses with a child are integral to the child’s learning experience, explained Anderson, and often can be more effective than the media.

By attending the workshop, which parents must register their family for, each member of the family receives a free dinner, in addition to being able to attend the workshop. The family also receives a free parking pass, as well as supervised children’s activities while the workshop takes place.

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