Some of my earliest memories from childhood involve family meals. Regardless of what was happening in our life, my siblings and I were expected to join our parents at the table every day. As we grew older and our school workload increased, these family meals became annoying. It seemed as though my mom always called us down for lunch or dinner at the most inconvenient time. As teenagers, my brother and I would grumble that family mealtime was when we received the most talks and unsolicited advice. There was no escaping it.

When we began college, our schedules didn’t allow us to have meals together as frequently as we used to, and all of a sudden, it seemed like we had the flexibility to captain our own days. Little did we know then just how important this seemingly inconsequential routine was to our mental, emotional, physical, and general well-being. Research shows that children, who grew up having family dinners are less likely to get into trouble, tend to do fairly better in school, and have a better bond with their families.

RELATED: Why It’s Worth It To Say “Yes” To Family Fun

Now that I have children of my own, I have to agree.

Family mealtime is something my husband and I strongly believe in.

At first, it was an unconscious habit that emanated from our own childhood. Before long we realized just how integral mealtime has become to the fabric of our family structure.

It is where . . . 

Our children see us talk about our day, joke around, make plans, and just simply unwind.

They see their parents disagree but also learn to communicate and resolve the issue.

We talk to our children, check in with them and gauge what is going on with them.

We advise them, chastise them, and impart life lessons.

They learn table manners, language skills, communication skills, how to coexist, and acquire knowledge about different cultures.

RELATED: Family Dinners Remind Me We Still Have So Much To Be Thankful For

My children often grumble about having to wait to eat as a family. They don’t always appreciate the food I have painstakingly prepared. They complain about being forced to listen to lame jokes and being subjected to yet another life lesson.

But our hope is that one day when they have families of their own, they will look back and reminisce about the fond, and perhaps the not too fond, memories they had around the table. And they just might decide this is a practice worth continuing with their own children.

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Divine Leonardo

Divine Leonardo is an educator with the New York City Department of Education. She can be found on Instagram @divineequilibrium.

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