WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?
When was the last time you sat down for a meal with your family?
Was it last night, last week or last month?
Do you eat regularly as a family?
Do you sit around a table at the same time?
For many families, eating together around the dinner table is only for special events, like birthdays.
Special occasion meals allow families to connect with each other, strengthen bonds and pass on family cultural traditions through the generations.
It’s a beautiful time and most of us have fond memories of a Christmas dinner around the table with family or friends.
Family meals don’t have to be saved for special occasions. Family meals can occur any day of the week. Maybe every day.
It can be challenging with different work schedules, school commitments and different dietary requirements or preferences to plan family mealtimes together. I know this from my experiences with four children. Some are fussier than others. I prefer to eat mainly plant-based or vegan too which can further complicate mealtimes.
Many parents just feel they don’t have time. Especially as their children get older and may eat out or at friends.
But daily family meals can fit into even the most filled up and busy calendars.
There are plenty of benefits to making time for daily family mealtimes.
Eating together as a family can give parents another opportunity to model behaviour for their children and create healthy lifestyle habits.
Children who eat with their families every day generally eat more healthy meals and more balanced portions.
11 VITAL REASONS TO ENJOY DAILY FAMILY MEALTIMES
- Finding the time to sit together at daily family mealtimes helps create positive, fun memories for you and your family. These conversations and laughter are what anchors in our brains.
The first place where children learn positive attitudes about food is in the home. Eating daily family meals together lays a solid foundation for your children to develop a healthy, positive relationship with food and their bodies. While their friend at school may say that they hate broccoli and the cool kids only want to drink juice, you have the opportunity every mealtime to provide them with reasons and chances to try alternatives for themselves in a judgement, pressure-free environment. Then they can decide for themselves.
Daily family mealtimes create a feeling of belonging and togetherness. The tribe. The concept of family meals applies whether your family is a mother and her child, or 2 parents with 5 children like mine.
For a couple, this routine of sitting down together offers the opportunity to create a chunk of time for each other. It encourages the maintenance of work and family life boundaries creating a balance between work and family life.
Family mealtimes may help combat eating disorders or overeating. Sitting as a family around a table and enjoying each other’s company and mindful eating helps you become more aware of how much you’ve eaten and make a connection between feeling satisfied and fulled in your body. This is harder if you eat in front of the TV for example.
Daily family mealtime conversations bring the family together and encourage higher self-esteem and self-worth in children. They know that there is place a home around the family dining table where they feel heard and accepted and valued.
You can teach your children useful life skills and how cooking can be a creative process. You can show them how to cook healthy, balanced meals for themselves by including them in meal planning and cooking. You can show them the entire process from buying the ingredients in the shop to how you can magically create a meal together.
- Children are more likely to try and taste new foods and cuisines from other cultures when they are involved in meal preparation, grocery list creation, planning recipes, cutting and peeling to cooking as well as laying the table and clearing up afterwards. This encourages a team spirit and fun atmosphere as well you get some kitchen assistants. This is useful for when they leave home and have to budget for food alone or cook meals for themselves.
Daily family mealtimes are a good time to connect with each other and share your thoughts, feelings and stories of the day. This opportunity for shared time and creating positive experiences with your children is a lovely way to connect and relax together after a busy day in your separate lives outside of the family home. Relax together and feel the love in this space.
Cooking with your children and giving them age-appropriate jobs with creating a daily family mealtime experience encourage independence and a sense of responsibility both in the home and out in the real world. It is a great opportunity to go over basic hygiene and safety rules as well as health and lifestyle topics.
Chatting at daily family mealtimes increases your kids’ speech and vocabulary. You can encourage them by asking your children about the best part of their day and give them a safe space to voice their concerns, hopes and dreams.
Children watch and copy adults. They learn behaviour from table manners to learning about health and nutrition in these day to day situations. Mealtime is the ideal time to remind your children every day that they are important and loved as well as share your own values around these topics which they are free then to accept or reject. Cooking and eating together is another demonstration and experience of family love.
Daily family mealtimes around the table create an expectation among everyone involved that this is a sacred time, a ritual for all in the tribe to connect and enjoy each other’s company.
Every day can be an occasion to celebrate each other with love and gratitude. For young children, this can be a great source of comfort.
Daily family mealtimes are a constant in their every changing, busy schedules. They know they have a dedicated time and space where they are welcome and accepted. A constant haven where they associate food and family with love and comfort in a healthy way.
Did you grow up eating together as a family?
Do you enjoy daily family mealtimes?
I’d love to know: Email me Niomi: [email protected]