Eating together as a family is an age old tradition. It is a simple way for the family to bond on a daily basis . Though eating is essentially a communalactivity yet these days because of our fast pace in life, it often becomes a solitary activity for children -whether it is a little child being fed ora teenager grabbing a bite and rushing off. It is a common occurrence in our society that the job of feeding the children has to be over and done with before the parents sit and eat. Do we end up focusing more on what to feed than how to eat?
When we sit down and eat at least one meal as a family , the children -younger and older are learning so much. Small children love to explore the food through their senses and curiosity makes them try the different types of dishes on the table. This way of trying out various foods expands their palate, making them willing to try and eventually enjoy eating varied kinds of food.Younger children learn to model behavior, like offering food to others on the table, speaking the way parents do, open to trying out food, learning new words, connecting with the whole family. Family mealtimes are one of the most powerful tools for developing a healthy attitude towards food in children.
The attitude around mealtimes during children's growing years helps them to form a positive attitude to food and also builds connection with family. This family mealtimes that bring the family together is further strengthened by the kind of communication which is the key to healthy relationships. So having an enjoyable family meal where there is less anxiety about food,no negative comments, labelling,threatening or turning food into an emotional issue can promote overall well being. . So when there is ease in the communication our children are relaxed and enjoy mealtimes. Aschildren grow older these family mealtimes becomes a sacred space forbonding and sharing their hopes and dreams as well as the events of their day with each other.
With school going children, even sitting down with our cup of tea in the morning while they have their early breakfast is helpful. The focus here is that we are sitting together without any other distractions. Spending this time with them even for that ten minutes in the morning helps them feel calm and connected.
In today's frenetic pace there could be a possibility that the work routine may allow one parent to sit with the children, or the meal times may vary , in such cases if we can keep them company while they eat helps us a family to be together as much as possible.
Research shows that eating with enjoyment and interest actually ensures that the body digests the food and absorbs nutrients more effectively. Research also indicates that family mealtimes have a tremendous positive impact on nurturing the family bond.
Contributed by Parenting Matters, an organization which empowers parents to build deeper
connection in families.