After recently watching the TED talk by Brad Meiring (of Munching Mongoose) I have been thinking a lot about family meal times. It's something that is important in our family, from Sunday lunches with the whole (huge!) family at my grandparents' house growing up, to regular dinner times at home with Lexi. Why are family meals important?
Food is nutrition. Macronutrients, micronutrients, fiber.... they are important. But food is more than just nutrition. Food performs a very important social function.
Food provides a very powerful means of communication. When we eat together with other people, we communicate. We become integrated into a family or into a society through the act, just the act, of sharing a meal.
And those social connections that we solidify, that we establish, by spending time around a table and eating and talking together, they actually contribute to the emotional health of our children.There's quite a bit of research saying that children who eat family meals actually do better in terms of their emotional well-being. Not to mention that they eat more in terms of variety and quantity in a relaxed environment.
Parents often complain that when they ask their children about their day they struggle to get answers. Relaxed family dinners are a great way to open conversations between parent and child. Every night when we eat dinner we ask Lexi questions like "what was your favourite part of today?", "what made you happy / sad today?" and "what did you learn today?". These are great conversation openers and a good way to get more insight into your child's state of mind.
And finally, eating together and, doing that over time for many, many years is a way in which we pass on our families traditions. A way in which we record our memories and pass those on. And a way in which we take the history of the generation that came before us and pass it on to the next generation.