One parent we know recently summed up her feelings about September: “It’s like I can feel the calendar closing in on me and all the activities and craziness just flooding back in.” Now that kids are back to school (or nearly), sign-up sheets are coming home and calendars are filling quickly. If the parents feel rushed and crazed by September, how are the kids feeling?
It’s easy to let that rushed feeling carry over to the dinner table, where — if you’re able to get there at all — you might find yourself prompting family members to hurry up, filling the conversation with reminders and logistics, receiving grumpy attitudes from the family and losing your patience. But a tense, hurried family dinner isn’t much good for anyone. Here’s how to slow down, focus on your time together and make the dinner table a place of calm for everyone.
Whether you choose to eat at a table, around the kitchen island or gathered on the living room sofas, mark the shift between everyday life and dinnertime by making the space especially welcoming. You don’t have to go crazy with fancy china, but clear the homework clutter, turn on some music and make sure there’s a comfortable spot for everyone.
Battling over the food — who’s eating what, who’s not, how many bites need to be eaten and who’s getting dessert — is one of the fastest ways to invite tension to the dinner table, and it can also be responsible for worsening, not improving, picky eating habits. Try this: Every night, make sure to serve at least one well-liked item, so no one goes hungry (and try to ignore what they’re NOT eating). That basket of bread or platter of fruit might be the easiest sanity-saver you’ve ever encountered!
…Or chores, reminders and anything else that could turn into “nagging.” Steer table topics towards things family members feel proud of, are looking forward to or want to share.
Laughter is one of the quickest, best ways to relax. Don’t be afraid to bring some silliness to dinner with you — joke contests, funny faces, tongue twisters or Pig Latin might not pass the “manners test” at your Grandma’s Sunday table, but you can make them welcome at your mealtimes!
Meet the Nogueira family from Ontario, Canada! They’re learning to slow down and savor the moment at their family dinners.
10-year-old Neala rated these burgers as one of the family dinners that makes her smile after a long day at school!
Try something completely different with an Upside-down and Backwards Night!
September 25 is CASA Family Day. Try keeping tabs on your family’s stress levels — and your own — with these calming conversation starters from our friends at Family Day!
2017 The Family Dinner Project
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