Envisage this scene. It is the family dining room and delightful aromas of a delicious dinner are wafting around. There is laughter, gaiety and a family looking forward towards a shared meal. Isn’t it a pretty picture? Sadly this scene, quite a common fixture about a decade back, is getting less and less common. TV dinners, eating out, hectic lifestyles have elbowed this feature out of the family life. The disappearance of family meal has rapidly lessened family conversation too.
However, there are many reasons why this practice should be revived in earnest.
Everybody is extremely occupied. The parents have their jobs and social life; the kids are busy in their studies, classes and other extracurricular activities. Amidst all this hectic activity, family bonding time evaporates. A shared meal would enable all the members to sit together and share their day with each other. Many issues between different members could be amicably resolved over dessert. This is the time when through small anecdotes, the kin connect and a tenacious bond is developed.
The places where the family meets are shrinking day by day. So is involvement in each other’s affairs. The dinner table is an excellent place to remedy that. When each of us relates our day every day, one gets a hang of the pattern. You are curious about the developments – the first date, the project proposal, the tiff. This is where the involvement starts. One just has to relate the problem to get a stream of suggestions from everyone. The conversation is not static. It jumps from topic to topic – related to school, office, food, the neighborhood, headlines; the sky is the limit. These interactions go beyond mere exchange of memories. In fact they encourage perspective-taking, critical thinking, theory-building, and relationship roles within the family. When any member is showing a marked aberration from normal, the rest usually put him on track. A well-functioning family learns to accept that each person is different and yet be supportive. This can only be learnt if the differences are thrown regularly at each other, allowing everyone time to acclimatise to them.
Research shows that children belonging to a communicative family display well developed language skills. How can one expect children who do not hear any conversation to pick up the language? The to and fro tossing of conversation provides a live example to the youngsters and also gives them something to think about. The meaning of an unfamiliar word is better grasped during a casual family mealtime conversation. If the word is repeated often enough, the kids catch on to the meaning, the usage and the syntax.