“Mealtime has historically been a time of family togetherness. Plus, if you’re getting multiple generations together, then there is a tapestry of diversity in terms of ages and interests and that is just so good for kids.”
Growing up, we don't really pay a lot of importance to the things around us, but it's only when they don't happen anymore that we begin to miss them. Remember how it was never a thing, but every Sunday, your family would get together to have one meal. It didn't exactly have to be lavish, but they all contributed something towards the meal. But now, as an adult, we're far away from our family and this is something we all truly miss out on. I mean, there was a lot of fun times that came along with the designated family time.
“The family that eats together thrives together,” says Dr. Vanessa Lapointe, a registered psychologist, and parenting expert. “Mealtime has historically been a time of family togetherness. Plus, if you’re getting multiple generations together, then there is a tapestry of diversity in terms of ages and interests and that is just so good for kids.” This makes sense now when we're away from home, doesn't it?
Think about it. When you and I grew up, our grandparents and our aunts and uncles were all quite close to our home, if not within walking distance. We had the opportunity to have people in our home round the clock, and not just on special occasions. My children do know their family, and they do love them, but they don't get to meet or interact with everyone on a regular basis, except on holidays and other important occasions.
This made me realize that it's not okay to continue this way. We don't know how long we have with each other. Death comes knocking at your door when you least expect it and these moments of just spending some quality time with your family does not come with a guarantee. I wanted my kids and my family to spend more time with each other, on a regular basis, and not just catch up with everyone once in a while.
I decided to make it happen, so I called my mom, and just told her that "we're coming over." Within hours, all of us just landed up on her doorstep, carrying the food we made. We'd invited a couple of our cousins, too, so we all sat down to have a proper meal together sans a special occasion for the first time after a very long time. Honestly, it felt so good to just gather around the table and catch up with everyone.
Anne Fishel, Ph.D., a family therapist and co-founder of The Family Dinner Project, a non-profit initiative that encourages families to connect over mealtime, says there are numerous benefits of families eating together. “The benefits range from the cognitive ones (young kids having bigger vocabularies and older kids doing better in school) to the physical ones (better cardiovascular health, lower obesity rates and eating more vegetables and fruits) to psychological ones (lower rates of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, substance abuse and fewer behavioral problems in school).”
It doesn't matter what's for dinner, it’s the communal environment that's created which makes all the difference. “These benefits don’t derive from a perfect roast chicken or organic tomatoes but instead from the atmosphere at the table — if there is conflict, stony silence or an intoxicated parent, these benefits do not occur. It’s critical that the atmosphere at the table be warm and inviting, that kids feel that it is safe to talk and know that someone is listening.”
The thing about this family meal tradition is that even though it does not take a lot of effort, and it's something that can happen in rotations. One person doesn't have to be the one always playing the host. Then again, even if it doesn't happen every Sunday, that's okay too. It's better to meet up with your family at least a couple of Sundays a month than just once in two-three months. It doesn't always have to be a lunch, any meal works just fine, as long as everyone's together.