Throughout history, across all cultures, mealtimes are considered a sacred time of the day. It is the moment when members of the family gather after hours of separation to share an intimate yet casual meal.
Considered a fairly traditional practice, many families whose members have erratic schedules fail to take advantage of this activity–not necessarily because they do not see the value, but because they are probably unaware of its benefits. Perhaps they would act differently if they knew that numerous studies have shown that children with regular family mealtimes are less likely to develop vices and eating and mood disorders, as well as report better performance in school and overall confidence.
This shouldn’t be surprising, as the very nature of sharing a meal with one’s family gives children numerous reasons to feel secure, safe, and loved by their parents.
It is during meal time that children know that they can count the undivided attention from their parents who are usually at work during the day. Mealtimes give children the opportunity to share their stories, concerns, and even just silly ideas and musings they seem to have an endless supply of. It also provides them with a ritual that gives them a sense of stability and comfort. “As a mother, I look forward to mealtime because I see it as a special hour wherein my husband and I disconnect from work and focus on learning about each other’s day, and listening to the stories of our children,” shares mom of 2, Melanie Laurel.
Melanie takes this time to go beyond asking them generic questions like “how was your day”, and instead tries to be as specific as possible when she’s trying to get information. “I ask them questions like, “what made you happy today?” or “what did you and name of friend do over lunch today?” Questions such as these train them to look back on the days they’ve had, and develops their ability to articulate and explain their feelings and experiences.
Mealtimes are not only a wonderful opportunity to connect with members of your family, but can also be used as an opportunity for critical thinking and teaching family values. “I try to do my best to challenge my children without overwhelming them, always asking WHY and WHAT DID YOU LEARN?” confides Ana Abano. Through this, she gains a deeper insight on how her children rationalize and process information.
Truly, the benefits of mealtimes shared are tremendous. If you don’t do this already, try to carve out at least 1 shared meal each week when you know your entire family will be complete. You, your spouse, and your children are sure to reap its benefits in the long run.