De-stressing family dinners

The Bottom Line:  A small investment of your time to pay attention to your kids before a meal makes mealtimes a whole lot easier.

Any of us who have raised children can relate to this one.  Meal times can be a circus, a zoo, a show that we don’t need to be a part of.  And that can be very stressful.

But even before the dinner table is set, the evening family rush hour starts — and this has nothing to do with traffic. The minute you get home from work or carpool duty your hungry kids start begging for your attention. Meanwhile, you’re exhausted and wondering if you can get away with ordering pizza (again). No wonder working mothers tend to experience significant spikes in heart rate and stress during workday evenings. Stay-at-home moms feel slammed by this second shift too.

But there may be a solution.  I’ve tried it and sometimes it actually works!  All kidding aside, give it a fair chance.  The trick is to invest some time up front and see the benefits immediately on the back end.  This strategy is about the same as organizing and executing any project.  Up-front investment pays off.

The first thing to do is insist on playing with your kids. Kick a ball, shoot a hockey puck, play a board game, have a little snack, read, review their day.  Talk. Laugh.

This sets the tone for the whole evening. When you make it a priority to start your home-time with dropping everything and playing with your kids, you give them the attention they crave, and it also may be a good distraction that you need from thinking about other concerns.

Regardless, it is important to remember that your children had a hard day as well. They’ve put in their 8 or 10 or 12 hours in daycare and/or school and/or after-school activities or sports. 

It’s not all about you.

After a fairly short time and when everyone is feeling good and well-attended-to, go ahead and make dinner … you won’t be bothered when prepping the meal and your kids will be more settled during the meal.