According to Peggy Post, our etiquette expert, when everyone is sitting together, the host and hostess sit at opposite end of the table. Honored guests (moms, dads, and in-laws) are seated on the host's and hostess's right, then to the host's and hostess's left. However, nowadays, convenience overcomes tradition. You can choose where you want your parents to sit, as long as there's enough space for all of you.
The point here is that families need not follow rigid rules about who sits where. It's up to you and your family how you want to organize yourselves at dinner. But remember, the host and hostess will usually be asked first if they have any special needs or requirements for seating them at the table. If you don't know what to do, just ask them!
And, while most Chinese meals are served around a circular table, there is still a seat of honor, which is normally the seat facing the entry or doorway to the dining room. In descending order, the next most significant members of the family are situated to the left or right of the patriarch or matriarch. They include children, grandchildren, parents, and ancestors.
It is common for one person at the table to be seated in the position of honor, with the others sitting according to their status in the family hierarchy. For example, children will usually sit beside or near the parent who has the highest status at the table, while servants or other people of lower rank may be relegated to less important seats farther away from the head of the household.
However, these rules are not always followed and families often choose to eat together without any formal arrangement as to who should have what position at the table.
Sitting at a table helps your child to be a part of the group and benefit from the social benefits of eating together. It also helps with skill development since kids can see how you handle your utensils, lift your cup, and so on. You can be a role model for them, and sitting next to or opposite your child is a terrific way to do so.
The dinner table is also very important for nutrition. Eating meals as a family helps children to develop good food habits which will help them stay healthy and avoid diet-related diseases like obesity and diabetes.
Finally, the dinner table brings parents and children together in the kitchen where they can talk about their days, compare notes on what each one ate for lunch, and more. Spending time together in this way builds strong families who enjoy communicating with each other and learning from each other.
So, yes, sitting at the dinner table is important for many reasons!
In most white, middle-class 1950s families, sitting down to eat dinner as a family was an expectation rather than a special occasion. Children were supposed to be seen but not heard in certain houses, but in my mother's family, mealtime was a time to chat about your day. If you weren't talking, you were eating.
Mom usually got home from work around 6pm and would start cooking while Dad read the newspaper. By 7pm all the kids would be home and it was time for dessert and then bathtime. Dinner might be spaghetti on Saturday nights or roast beef on Sundays, but it didn't matter since this was what everyone ate every night of the week. There were no specific meals assigned to particular days of the week or seasons; this is when convenience foods like frozen pizzas and packaged macaroni and cheese came into play.
When I was a kid, dinner consisted of whatever Mom made with whatever ingredients she had on hand. If it wasn't cooked yet, that was fine by us; we'd just help ourselves to another dish later. Sometimes we'd ask for sandwiches for lunch instead, but that was unusual. My mom was a lot more concerned about whether or not we were getting enough calcium than about whether or not we were eating healthy fats like olive oil or protein like chicken breast. She knew that if we had milk at bedtime, we'd drink plenty of it before we went to sleep.