They are very important! I remember how hard it was with our busy lifestyle to get my children to sit down with both parents for dinner. Perhaps mornings were a possibility, but even those seemed difficult as getting the kids to brush their teeth, get ready and prepare breakfast or set the table was getting to be almost impossible as we might get late for school or our jobs. So what was left were the weekend breakfast and lunches. I considered that very important at least once or twice a week even!
Now thankfully, with our different schedules and my older one being more independent in daily life skills it’s possible to eat our family dinners. I consider it a beautiful time, sitting down at the table and each of us enjoying food. I make sure I don’t force and only encourage my kids to try everything. I enjoy watching my little one as she devours her favorite food on her plate and mimics our gestures by tasting everything and even trying to serve herself with her little hands. That is my joy. Once I have introduced a variety of foods to my children, I get to learn what their likes and dislikes are. I make sure to have at least one food that each child likes at the table. This way it makes the child feel comfortable and willing to try other foods at the table. For example, today my older one enjoyed her whole-wheat naan, and my little one enjoyed poking a little fork into the diced mango and grapes. I did encourage them to try the Indian lentils or “dal”. Sitting together at mealtime not only teaches the children table manners but also makes eating a meal more enjoyable. There is a lot of research showing the importance of family meals. It brings closeness and stability to the family and children’s lives. It has also been found that kids snack healthier and teenagers stay away from negative lifestyle habits.
Once I feel we are not really doing our family dinners or very little of it, I try to set a goal to make sure we have atleast 1 to 3 per week. Here are a few references that show the documented research on family meal time.