Most parents would agree that meal times tops the list as one of the most stressful parts of the day. Between fumbling to get the dinner table set, having the children in their seats, inspecting hands for dirt, and providing a meal that everyone will eat, it’s enough to make any parent want to pull their hair out. In 11 Ways to Create Happier Family Mealtimes, an article written by Rebecca Horseman, MS, RD, she provides some effective tips to help parents achieve a more organized and happier family mealtime.
Some of my favorite suggestions from Rebecca’s article include:
- Reducing the number of times you have to leave the table, by making sure everything you need is waiting nearby. For example, an extra pitcher of water or wet washcloths for messy hands and faces.
- Calmly dismissing whininess, fighting, and rudeness away from the table. If your child happens to be throwing a fit, have them to take a 5-minute time out and only come back when they can be happy and thankful for their meal.
Here are a few other simple ways that I’ve discovered to make meal times more enjoyable for everyone:
- Throw the “clear your plate rule” out the window. Butting heads with your children about uneaten food will accomplish nothing but increased tension at the dinner table. Children will naturally experiment with different foods the more times they are exposed to them, so don’t be too pushy if they refuse it the first time.
- Make the dinner table a technology-free zone. This rule is for everyone, no exceptions! Distractions such as television and cell phones can wait until after the meal is over. Instead, use dinner as social time to catch-up and interact with your family. Try asking your children about their day at school, if they learned anything new, or even try getting everyone’s input on dinner requests for the following week.
- Have a quick and easy back-up plan ready for fruit and vegetable options. Having additional options ready-to-go in case you have a picky eater on your hands will really cut down on mealtime stress. For example, single-serving microwavable steamed vegetables, fruit cups with natural juice, or veggies with dip are fast and require little additional preparation.
- Divide and Conquer. Get everyone in the family involved with setting the table, getting drinks ready, and cleaning-up after the meal. If everyone is assigned a task that rotates throughout the week, you will find yourself less flustered than if you were to try to manage it all on your own.
Its quite inevitable that there will be some bumps in the road while cooking and feeding your family, but following these tips will move you towards making meal times more painless and an enjoyable daily bonding experience.
For even more helpful tips, be sure to visit Rebecca’s blog Tots to Teens Nutrition.
How does your family minimize distractions at the table?
An Intern Behind the Plate,
Tots to Teens Nutrition is a blog written and maintained by Rebecca Horsman, MS, RD. Rebecca is one of Around the Plate’s Nutrition Experts and is a member of thePlate Community. As a Nutrition Expert, Rebecca makes eating healthy simple. Find other nutrition experts, recipe gurus, and healthy eating champions on our community blog network.