How to change stressful dinners with kids into precious family time

How to change stressful dinners with kids into precious family time

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How to change stressful dinners with kids into precious family time

Meal times are one of the cornerstones of your daily routine. They can be the most joyous part of your day or the most dreaded part of your day.

When you have small children it is very important that you be consistent and that they sit down to eat at roughly the same times every day. It’s also important that those times are spaced far enough apart so that your kids have an appetite for what’s put in front of them, but not so far apart that the run-up to every meal is marked by the kind of bad behaviour and irritability that’s triggered by hunger and low blood sugar levels.

Meals though, are not just about getting the right amount and type of food into your kids at the right time. They’re also occasions when your family can be together sharing news, talking over what everyone’s been up to during the day, sharing successes and disappointments as well as just enjoying each other’s company.

My family also uses meal times to share how we helped someone or made someone smile that day.

In many families, meal times are not so enjoyable. Instead, they’re running battles to get kids to eat, behave, or just sit down at the table. How do you turn this scenario around so that mealtimes become one of your favourite times of the day with your family?

The first step is to establish some ground rules. Here are seven rules that can help family dinners turn into precious family time:

  1. Children should wash their hands before they eat.
  2. Children need to sit at the table and not run off.
  3. TV stays off during meals.
  4. Children need to finish chewing before speaking.
  5. No one answers the telephone during meals.
  6. Children need to eat nicely – no playing with their food.
  7. Children need to TRY something – if they don’t like it that’s fine, but they must TRY it. If they truly try something and really don’t like it then they are free to eat the side dishes.

These rules are pretty simple which make it easy for you to reinforce. If your child breaks one of the rules, use this phrase:

“Ella, (of course use your own child’s name here), you need to ________________ (finish chewing your food before you speak. We don’t talk with food in our mouths.)”

The key words here are, “You need to” and “We”. These words teach your rules and values clearly and concisely but they also join you as a family instead of placing blame or belittling. When your child hears, “We” they hear, “Oh, yeah, that’s what my family does” instead of, “I’m bad again”.

If your child continues to misbehave or break a rule after this reminder then you can use my 4 Step Discipline Technique.

A couple of other things to make sure meal time is relaxing:

  • Ease up. Gradually give your baby (child) the opportunity to experience independence because it’s what they crave. As soon as your baby can sit upright, without additional support, bring the high chair to the table. Let her feed herself as much as possible – with finger foods to start off with.When she’s big enough, give her a booster seat. Try not to make a 2 1/2 or 3 year old be stuck in a high chair drinking from a bottle or sippy cup – they are beyond this. It’s okay though to have a 2 – 2 1/2 year old wear a bib until they can show you they don’t need it, but try to allow them to practice being independent.
  • Use a speaking object, if necessary. Sometimes families, larger ones especially, struggle because everyone wants to speak at the same time. Decide as a family on what object could be used to show whose turn it is to talk. It could be the salt shaker or something more special like a shell someone found on a family holiday. Pass this object around to ensure that only the person with it in front of them is speaking.

Use these tips and tricks consistently and I guarantee that meal times will become one of your most favourite times of the day!

How to change stressful dinners with kids into precious family time

How to change stressful dinners with kids into precious family time

Regular sit-down family dinners can make all the difference in a child’s life. Studies like this one tout the emotional and physical benefits for children who eat dinner with their parents. It’s been found that kids who eat regular family meals tend to do better academically, have better language skills, have closer relationships with their parents, eat healthier food, have fewer weight problems, smoke less, and use fewer drugs and alcohol.

What’s more, dinnertime is a wonderful way for families to spend time together, check in with each other, and hear about everyone’s day.

Sounds fantastic… until reality kicks in. Preparing a sit-down meal after a full day of work — along with dealing with homework and other after-school activities that eat into the evening hours — might seem impossible. But according to Suzie Kane, founder of familymealplanning.net and the author of Suzie’s Table: A Smorgasbord of Ideas for Less Stress and More Fun at Dinner Time, there are easy ways to find time to sit down for family dinnertime. Here are some of Kane’s top tips for making family meals happen.

Start out small

“Start with a modest goal of just one or two nights a week,” says Kane, who notes how hard it can be for busy parents and kids to find even 20 minutes to simply sit down together. So for starters settle on a couple of “family nights” — like Fridays or Sundays — when kids have fewer activities and less homework. Or try a weekend breakfast or lunches if schedules allow. It doesn’t have to always be dinner. However, even one night a week makes a difference when it comes to family bonding. And dinner provides a more specific time where the kids know they will have your attention.

Don’t stress about the food

Yes, a plateful of green veggies and fresh fruit would be nice. But if preparing an elaborate homemade meal is getting in the way of having a sit-down family dinner, remember: It’s less about the food and more about the togetherness. “You don’t even have to make the food,” says Kane. “Even if it’s a pizza or takeout Chinese, the fact that you’re sitting there together may be the only time busy parents have to connect with their kids.” There are also dinner shortcuts kids love, like having breakfast or lunch for dinner. What could be easier than scrambled eggs or sandwiches?

Have kids help plan the meal

By the time they are 5, your children can help you plan — and even make — many meals. If you’re the type who likes to plan ahead, tell the kids that on Sunday they can choose what the family will eat (no cake for the main course allowed… unless it’s their birthday) a few nights a week. Writing out a weekly meal schedule ahead of time also removes nightly what’s-for-dinner stress.

If you’re really organized, write the names of different dishes on index cards, so the kids can choose from the possibilities, be it tacos, spaghetti, soup, or hamburgers. When it’s time to cook, invite them into the kitchen with you and give them age-appropriate tasks, from stringing beans to stirring in ingredients. Not only will working together give you more time to spend with your children (rather than you always working for them), but they’ll also be more likely to eat what they helped make.

Get ’em talking

Much of the benefit of eating together is about talking together. But if all you’re hearing when you ask questions about your kids’ day is, “I dunno,” “Fine,” and “Nothing,” you can use creative and fun ways to get everyone talking. Kane suggests dinner table games, like one called “2-Up+1-Down.” Each person at the table shares two good things and one disappointing thing from their day. “Celebrating our successes of the day feels good,” says Kane. “And talking about the ‘downs’ gives family members a chance to support each other.”

A variation on this game: Give two compliments to another person at the table and then say one thing about something you did that you’re proud of. “This game is great for kids who need a boost in their self-esteem,” says Kane. And what kid doesn’t need mom-and-pop props now and then?

Another table-talk booster is to have everyone describe what super-power they’d most like to have. Before you know it, the family will be talking about how to achieve world peace — or the pros and cons of electric blue tights. If these games don’t loosen lips, take some family dinner conversation-starting tips from GreatSchools staff.

Make setting up and cleaning up a family affair

If dinnertime set-up and clean-up is too much for you to take on alone, teach your kids the value of teamwork by having them pitch in. Kids as young as 3 can help out.

Assign each person different tasks, from setting the table to clearing the table to washing dishes. (Hint: Use a chore chart to eliminate squabbling over who does what every night.)

Kane does this with her own kids. “I was tired of the cleanup alone,” says Kane, who now has her entire family helping out. “It used to take me 30 minutes to clean up alone. Now within 10 minutes, it’s done.” Bonus: The family gets to keep the dinner conversation going during cleanup.

How to change stressful dinners with kids into precious family time

How does dinnertime look in your house? I cling to dreams of family bonding and quality time, but lately, that’s just not the reality. My youngest child, recently freed from the tethers of his high chair, is up and running from the very start. His older brother and sister are most often fighting, or if they agree, it’s because they both don’t want to eat what’s for dinner. I’ve always felt I have it good. I love to cook, and even in the chaos of the hour before dinner, making dinner relaxes me.

My kids are all healthy eaters, and they even help prepare some meals. I hold dinner as a sacred time, and I love everything about the process. I thought I was doing everything right! But lately, I just can’t keep up with the stress of dinnertime. My six-year-old’s friend was over last night for dinner and I asked him how his parents kept him at the dinner table.

“They tape my butt down,” he replied.

Alright then. At least I’m not alone.

I’ve read studies on the importance of family meals. I know how important it is to all sit down together, even for a few minutes. I’m not giving up on dinnertime. So I’ve been talking to other parents, and looking into little shifts I can make to de-stress dinnertime. Here are some tips:

1. Understand that preschoolers might not be developmentally ready to have a sit down meal.

I’ve seen in my older children that kids’ appetites and ability to engage in discussions really does increase as they get older. I’m going to work to remember that my younger two children might not be able to sit for longer than five or 10 minutes, and that’s OK. We’ll try to make the most of the time their at the table.

2. Make sure we’re eating at the right time for our family.

I’ve realized my children do best eating well before 6 p.m.. This often isn’t the best time for me or my husband to eat, as we both work full-time. It doesn’t make sense to keep the kids hungry or have a snack so soon before dinner. Sometimes, feeding young kids earlier is a better option.

3. Take care of nutritional needs before dinner.

When we do all have dinner together, I don’t want to spend the whole meal urging them to eat their vegetables. Instead, I’ll do what I can to make sure they eat good food throughout the day. The fewer food battles, the better.

4. Having a child who is a picky eater is more common than you’d think.

Picky kids don’t translate into picky adults. It’s totally normal for kids to be choosy about what they like and don’t like. I’m going to keep exposing my kids to delicious foods and let that be that. My goal is to make sure that mealtime is not a battleground.

5. Have kids bring a healthy snack to the table.

Here’s another option: Rather than eating a full meal together, have your kids join in for a post-dinner snack at the table. This way, you can still have the time together at the table. Offer yogurt or fruit at the table while you and your partner eat together.

6. Choose a quiet toy or activity to bring to the table.

This is definitely a matter of preference, and in my home, it wouldn’t be an iPhone or iPad. But some kids really benefit from having something they can focus on. Drawing can be a great option here.

7. Don’t expect great conversation at the table.

Let go of expectations, and your kids will often surprise you. Younger kids might not be ready for conversations at the table, so it can be helpful to ask direct questions that can be answered with just a few words. Try playing games where everyone says what the best part of their day was. That’s often been a good conversation starter at our table.

8. It might only last 10 minutes, but make it a good 10 minutes.

Remember that dinner is a time to be together and to bond. Keep your eyes on the prize. Try not to get into food battles or family feuds. Focus on connection.

9. Remember that quality time takes all shapes.

Let’s take some of the pressure off family dinner. Find other times in the day to connect as a family, like breakfast, a family walk, or board game.

10. Eat a grown-up meal after the kids go to bed.

I try not to make this a regular occurrence, but some times I need a quiet dinner alone with my husband. So I sit with my kids as they eat their meal, and then I know I’ve got a grown-up meal ahead. I’ve stopped trying to turn kid meals into adult ones — at least for now. This takes the pressure off and makes the night enjoyable for the whole family.

I love dialogue among parents. I would love to hear your dinnertime methods.

This post originally appeared on MindBodyGreen.

We know gathering around the table every night is important for kids, but with our hectic schedules. how are we supposed to make family dinners happen?

By Sasha Emmons September 14, 2019

How to change stressful dinners with kids into precious family time

A few years ago, family dinners weren’t happening in my house. My kids were young with early bedtimes, and my husband and I both worked full-time. As a longtime parenting editor, I was well aware of the benefits kids reap from the family eating together: higher grades, lower risk of depression, better vocabulary and more fruit and veggie intake. But making a dinner we would all eat + giving baths + reading bedtime books was an equation I just couldn’t make work, and it gnawed away at me.

A few years later, my school-age kids have later bedtimes, which helps a lot. (Of course, now they also have homework.) We also made some big life decisions that led to more reasonable working hours. Most of all, I’ve figured out a few tricks and shortcuts to making this together time happen—and making it count. Sometimes it’s rushed, and sometimes (read: most of the time) it’s less than civilized, but it does happen almost every night. Here’s what worked for our family:

1. Take a hard look at nighttime activities.

Do you spend most nights running around to hockey or soccer and eating in the car? If so, you might want to see what you can do to scale back. Think of it this way: There’s a small chance your kid’s going to go pro some day, but there’s a 100 percent chance he’ll reap the social and nutritional benefits of eating together.

2. Plan ahead for family dinners.

I cannot stress enough how much family dinners hinge on thinking ahead so there’s no 4 p.m. oh-crap-what’s-for-dinner panic-shopping. Spec out your meal plan on the weekend (special meal planning notepads or apps like Cook Smarts or Plan to Eat make it easier), and shop for the week, thinking about what produce will keep the longest and which nights you’re likely to be most pressed for time. Do some chopping prep on the weekend, consider batch cooking and use the slow cooker—whatever you can do to cut down on weeknight prep time.

3. Take shortcuts wherever you can.

There’s no shame in making things as easy on yourself as possible. So go ahead and buy pre-cut veggies, or stick to the same daily theme nights (really, are your kids ever going to get sick of Taco Tuesday?). And cut yourself some slack when it comes to cooking gourmet; simple deconstructed meals or breakfast-for-dinner are totally legit family dinner solutions.

4. Consider breakfast.

If evenings are just too crazy, there’s another option for that daily family meal: breakfast! You can reap almost all the same benefits of time together by doing it in the AM. There’s almost no prep time required, and by setting your alarm clock just a few minutes earlier, you can still fit in that quality time.

5. Get them talking.

For many kids asking “How was school today?” is the least effective way to find out how school was. But we need to help kids practice the art of conversation to counteract the antisocial effects of screens. So make it fun: play Roses & Thorns, where they talk about the best and worst part of their day, or pose talkers like “When did you laugh today?” or “What would you change about your day?”

6. Keep expectations low.

If your kids are little, spills and bad table manners are going to happen, and family dinners might not be very relaxing or rewarding for now. That’s OK—learning isn’t always pretty, but rest assured you are moving the needle in the right direction. And if you get in the habit of family dinners when your kids are younger, you’ll have the relationship when they’re older.

How to avoid conflict during the holidays with troublesome family members.

The holidays are a special time for some, perhaps the only time all year they get to see other family members. As special as these occasions are, we all know a family—it might even be your family—for whom get-togethers are often fraught with trepidation, concern, and in some cases fear, because of the behavior of one family member. That individual predictably, in his or her unique way, manages to say the wrong thing, act out inappropriately, irritate others, contrives to be the center of attention, arrives late and expects you to wait yet again, or is never happy and wants you to suffer also.

These socially toxic individuals don’t care whom they inconvenience, irritate, or hurt. They are not mindful of others. If their disruptions ruin a long-awaited, carefully planned family reunion, in their eyes, so be it—and it is never their fault.

Do you know someone like this? Here is a list from Dangerous Personalities of behaviors that toxic family members often display that can alert you to potential issues or enmity. These traits drive others to desperation but don’t seem to affect the misbehaving individual in the least:

  1. Is irresponsible in speech and actions to the point of irritating others or hurting others’ feelings—it is as if this person negligently feels no need to filter what he or she says.
  2. Has a “short fuse.” Displays of intense anger and outbursts are common and very disproportionate to the circumstances or the event that triggered the outburst.
  3. Being around this person leaves you less happy, less fulfilled, emotionally drained, crying, or constantly on edge, as you fret about the next act that will embarrass or hurt you.
  4. Tends to be opinionated, rigid in thinking, suspicious without cause, unyielding, or just plain truculent—seeming to enjoy conflict even at the expense of family harmony.
  5. Needs to be the center of attention at all times or acts out with unjustified irritation or anger if feeling left out of anything (conversations, events, outings, et cetera).
  6. When you are around this person, you feel emotionally and even physically drained or you feel anxious, troubled, tormented, or infuriated.
  7. Those who are closest (e.g., you, family, children, spouses, boyfriend or girlfriend, etc.) routinely have to “check” to gauge this person’s “mood.” You and others find yourself “walking on eggshells” around this person.
  8. Arguments that should last a few minutes may go on for hours or days with no effort to ameliorate or end them.
  9. Seems to play role of “victim” (to get attention) or “princess” (expecting special treatment). Has been known to accuse others of some perceived injustice or demands to be treated as royalty – with every whim catered to at the expense of others.
  10. Is a “wound collector.” Collects past injustices, faux pas, mistakes, slights, or perceived social injuries and resurrects them to argue with or harangue others. There is no forgiving and forgetting—even mishaps from decades past are collected and cultivated for later reuse.

With individuals like this, the first thing to do is to recognize that you are not imagining things. Just because this person acted fine one day does not mean you should ignore the many other days of boorish or insensitive behavior at the expense of others. Someone who behaves this way as a matter of course is not being quirky. This is about being socially toxic to others—a common trait of the emotionally unstable personality. People like this need help, and they should seek out professionals who can handle this kind of disorder. In the meantime, we have to protect ourselves.

During times of stress, our personal coping resources, and consequently our parenting skills, may need a boost — or a break. A separation or divorce, an illness or death, moving, or even a financial issue like a home foreclosure can result in a storm of feelings for kids and parents alike.

Our unique perception and reaction to an event, and our personal coping resources, cause a stress response. Two people experiencing the same situation may cope very differently. One may feel intense mental or emotional tension while the other experiences only a slight bump in the road.

When parenting during times of high stress, keep in mind that stress may affect your child very differently from how it affects you as a parent. Just as parenting coping resources may be diminished under times of great stress, children may behave very differently from their norm when under great stress.

Recognizing the symptoms of stress and identifying the stressor is extremely important. A change in behavior often is a key indicator of stress. It should cause you to examine what’s going on with your child to create this change. Here are some examples:

  • Recurring physical discomfort, such as a stomachache on a school morning or a bodyache every day before practice, without a health reason.
  • Avoidance behaviors, such as saying they don’t want to participate in something that they used to do frequently.
  • Emotional changes, such as an outgoing child withdrawing, a normally happy child seeming sad all the time, or a mild-mannered child becoming irritable or developing an explosive temper.
  • School performance changes, such as plummeting grades or acting out in class.
  • Increased fears or anxiety.
  • Sleep changes, either trouble sleeping or sleeping much more than usual.

It’s critical to remain vigilant to unfolding and developing stresses. Residual effects of stress situations may occur over weeks, months, or even years. Sometimes, it may come back up at various developmental stages later in life as the stress is re-experienced. Continuing to be open to questions and actively listening to your children when they share their thoughts is imperative. Processing stressful situations is rarely a one-time conversation.

Below are five types of stress situations and how to handle them:

  1. Divorce or separation. Set the stage for your children’s long-term adjustment to this life event. Be direct and honest with them about what’s happening. Answer all their questions. Maintain your own composure. Understand that children may blame themselves.Build in some time for children to prepare for the separation if possible, but not so much that they can stew over it or start to think it won’t happen. Remain on civil terms with your ex-spouse. Ongoing parental conflict following a divorce is one of the strongest predictors of negative outcomes for kids. Don’t put your kids in the middle of your problems by badmouthing each other. You can be a good role model for behavior regardless of whether your ex-spouse is doing so. Try to keep limits and rules at each home as similar as possible. Kids can get used to different rules at different places as long as they are consistent in each.
  2. Illness. Illness is extraordinarily stressful regardless of whom it affects. It cannot be adequately covered in this short article. Please reach out to your extended circle of support, and try these tips:Kids thrive on predictability, even small routines. Maintaining normalcy is important. Find as many little things that can stay the same for your kids, whether it’s the time you eat dinner, a regular school and homework schedule, or the Friday night movie tradition. Avoid the impulse to overindulge or overprotect your kids. It only sends messages of fragility, incompetence, or doubt about their ability to get through this difficult situation. Balance appropriate support and protection with normal expectations and confidence in your child’s resilience.
  3. Financial problems. Financial uncertainty can strain a family. Kids pick up on cues from their parents, so you can assume that children will pick up on parent stress and anxiety. Yet kids may have no context at all for understanding what is going on. Explain any changes in standard of living that will affect their lives, and answer questions as honestly as you can. This helps alleviate any misinterpretations that may occur. (If kids don’t have their questions answered, they fill in the blanks with their imaginations). Above all, reassure them that you will take care of them. Allow children to share ideas of where to cut back on family spending. Low-cost or no-cost family time visiting parks, bike riding, or playing board games can be a great way to spend quality time together. Keeping active helps keep excessive worry and feelings of depression at bay.
  4. Moving to a new home or school. While the reasons for moving vary, the ramifications for a child often are similar: new school, new neighborhood, and (seemingly) no friends. As exciting as it may be, recognize that this transition can be tough. Give your child as many coping opportunities as possible. Prepare them as far in advance as you can. Empower kids and build self-esteem by letting them make some decisions about the move: which items they will take and which they will donate, what color to paint their new room, and so on.Provide opportunities for open communication. Ask questions that can’t be answered with just a yes or no, such as, “What do you think about that?” and “How does that make you feel?” Let kids know that you’re a little nervous about the move, too. After all, you’ll have to start out in an unfamiliar place and make new friends.
  5. New baby. Toddlers are famous for thinking that the new baby is an invader into their territory, but older children may react this way, too. A new baby makes the circumstances of siblings’ lives and place in the family very different. As overjoyed as you may feel, remember that siblings’ feelings may not be the same as yours. Ensure a balance of family time and individual time with parents. Safeguard the extracurricular activities your older child enjoys, even if it’s hard for you to handle them with a newborn. Acknowledge and validate your older child’s feelings and be ready to discuss her frustrations. Allow your child to vent and listen carefully to her frustrations. Empower your child by enlisting her help with the baby’s care when appropriate.

If you ever start to feel emotionally overwhelmed, seek out support. This becomes critically necessary if you are involved in the stressful situation, such as becoming ill or going through a divorce. If you don’t have a trusted friend or family member in whom you can confide, reach out to a professional or religious leader or a support group where you can process your feelings. Self-care is essential to good parenting, and at no time is this more important than when under a great deal of stress.

Sometimes it feels like our kitchen has a revolving door, and the counters are a mess of takeout containers, or a frozen pizza and chopped veggies. But I’m fine with it.

How to change stressful dinners with kids into precious family time

Early in parenthood, I felt pressured to pull off gold-standard nightly family dinners. I’d heard what the experts were saying about its importance and always imagined a movie-worthy scene around the table, with our four happy kids. But the demands of commuting, raising a big family, and having a partner who travelled for work made it more like a horror film than a feel-good family drama. I was impatient with my hungry, overtired kids and short with my husband on the nights he wasn’t home in time to join us. One particularly stressful and teary evening, with a squawking baby on my hip and three other miserable children waiting to be fed, I realized the dinnertime vibe in our home was nothing like the one I remembered fondly from my own childhood.

When I was a kid, my dad worked the late shift every third week. On those nights, my sister and I arrived home from school to find plates of dinner left out for us. Even though our mom was a whiz in the kitchen, she kept it very simple for our TV dinner nights. As soon as the theme song from our favourite cartoon came on, we would race from the kitchen to the couch. It always felt like we were breaking the rules, and it was such a thrill. My sister and I loved it.

It wasn’t until I became a parent myself that I understood our 1980s-era TV dinners were a break for our mom, too. In what was surely an act of self-preservation, she kept herself busy somewhere else and had dinner with my dad, long after we were in bed.

Sit-down family dinners were still the norm whenever he was home to help, and we knew the couch wasn’t an option. On weekends, we often went out for a big breakfast—a good way to connect and make up for all the dinners we spent apart.

The stressful scene I was setting for my young kids every night—with unrealistic expectations and overambitious meal plans—wasn’t working. The baby, long overdue to be nursed, would be sobbing at my breast under a quasi-clean tea towel that I’d thrown over her head so I could shovel food into my mouth, all while bargaining with a toddler who didn’t want to stay in her high chair. There would be no energy left in me to also coax my older two kids to try whatever palate-expanding meal I thought I needed to be feeding them. Spoiler alert: a lot of it went untouched.

I wanted us to look forward to dinner, instead of just gobbling our food and getting it over with. It was time to free myself from the endless dinner tyranny. So here’s what I decided to do differently:

1. Keep it simple

I made a list of easy-to-prep meals and put them into weekly rotation. If it took more than 30 minutes to get on the table, it didn’t make the list. I also stopped doling out snacks to hold the kids off, because it ruined their appetites.

2. Make dinner earlier

We switched to eating earlier, without my husband, and enjoyed each other’s company a lot more. My husband’s plate (when I managed to make extra) waited in the fridge so he could spend time with us when he came through the door. He ate after getting the kids to bed, and I joined him at the table to chat and catch up. If he was able to make it home at a reasonable time, the kids and I had an after-school snack and waited excitedly for the sound of his key in the door.

3. Self-serve is totally fine

As my kids get older and busier, we’re juggling schedules that make our heads spin. Many nights, more than one plate of food is set aside for a latecomer. It feels like our kitchen has a permanently revolving door, dinner goes on for hours, and I’m fine with it now. (And I’m happy to report that I haven’t seen any issues with proper restaurant behaviour and table manners when we do go out for a more formal meal.)

4. Eating on the couch is cool

Once a week we have an “eat wherever you want” night for all four kids—with no obligation to sit down together at all. Like my mom used to, there are plates of a very simple meal left out on the counter, and no rules about sitting at the table or eating at a certain time. Our youngest loves to park herself on the couch with a favourite show, our oldest prefers to sneak away to her room to do homework, and our two middle kids still like to eat in the kitchen. We always eat dinner as a family on Sunday nights. My husband and I appreciate each shared meal a lot more now, too, because we know these gatherings are becoming fewer and farther between.

Before the era of parenting do’s and don’ts, I think my parents did what they had to when it came to family dinners. They didn’t have the luxury of worrying about whether it was picture-perfect. Today’s families have similar pressures and challenges, whether they’re single parenting or navigating work schedules that make sit-down meals during the week impossible. It took me a while to get the hang of it, but we no longer treat dinner as a set time on the clock. I don’t feel bad about a few empty chairs multiple nights a week. Sometimes, it’s just going to be two of us (instead of all six of us) catching up on the couch after a late-night middle-school band rehearsal. Sometimes it’s a mess of takeout containers, or a frozen pizza and chopped veggies.

While feeding our kids healthy food and setting an example for mealtime etiquette is important, the most wholesome part of any family dinner should be how it feels. I know the relaxed moments we share over plates of food—homemade and piping hot, or store-bought and reheated—will be among my kids’ favourite memories. And for me, that’s better than any Hollywood movie could ever be.

  1. �A man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man.” ― Don Vito Corleone, Mario Puzo, The Godfather
    Dedication

I don’t think quantity time is as special as quality time with your family. Reba McEntire
Time

Smile at each other, make time for each other in your family. Mother Teresa
Smile

Think how really precious is the time you have to spend, whether it’s at work or with your family. Every minute should be enjoyed and savored. Earl Nightingale
Inspirational

Having family time to reflect on your day is the best. Buddy Valastro
Best

Love your family. Spend time, be kind and serve one another. Author Unknown
Love

Spend some time this weekend on home improvement; improve your attitude toward your family. Bo Bennett
Attitude

It is amazing just where you can source that extra time. Even taking a child to school can be a time of togetherness where you can talk to each other . T. K. Oliver, Blended Families
Amazing

You will never look back on life and think, “I spent too much time with my kids.” Author Unknown
Life

Going home and spending time with your family and your real friends keeps you grounded. Jennifer Ellison
Home

How to change stressful dinners with kids into precious family time
No amount of money or success can take the place of time spent with your family. Author Unknown
Money

Too much TV time, while it may seem like a fun family activity, too much of it can shift your attention from each other to the TV. Jake Smith, 10 Steps To A Happier Life
Family

We should make some time in between and organize our life, relax ourselves and spend more time with our family, friends, and pursue our own hobbies. Robert Gallagher, Stress Management
Relax

Self-discipline to eat right, to exercise, to spend quality time with your family, to get your work done, to relax, to go to bed on time, to avoid negative people and negativity in general, to control your thoughts, to do the right thing, etc. Melissa Eshleman, A Quote a Day to Find Your Way
Discipline

Making your spare time to look towards the precious things you have, the pastimes, and family makes life more satisfied and agreeable, as well as it will definitely help you in being more concentrated at work as well. Adam Green, Greatest Life Lessons, Observations and Motivational Quotes from Bill Gates
Work

There is a great work/home life balance that you need to achieve. If you let your home life eat into your work life, you lose motivation quickly and if work life imposes too much on your family time, then your family time becomes less satisfactory. Dane Taylor, Time Management
Balance

Consistent and individualized attention given to each child will significantly reduce misbehavior. Regular and wholesome family time will also give siblings the opportunity to interact with each other in a positive way. Felicity Bauer, Siblings Without Rivalry
Consistency

When we treat them like the human beings they are, show our appreciation for their excellent work, and then encourage them to spend the weekend with their families, they are going to return to the workplace with renewed vigor, eager to prove their worth to the project and to the company. William C. Oakes, Christlike Leadership
Words of Encouragement

She (Mother Teresa) encouraged that even if we are feeling overwhelmed we should try to ‘make one point’ and ‘make time for each other in your family’. Scarlett Johnson, 40 Inspirational Life Lessons And Timeless Wisdom From The Life Of Mother Teresa
Feeling

You can always choose to be generous with your time. Yes, we all have responsibilities to family and work. But if we were to be honest, it is quite possible that we waste a lot of time that could be used to help others. Jose Figueroa, What Do You Mean is Not My Money?
Generosity

Every male member of the house battles with the insecurity that whether they are giving enough attention to their family, is their family happy, are their needs being fulfilled and so on. Jacques Harland, Making Your Marriage Work
Happy

If I could attribute any one thing to the success my family has experienced through the years, it would simply be my wife and I took the time to be there for our kids. Willie Williams, 7 Steps to Parenting Power
Children

How to change stressful dinners with kids into precious family time
Cherish your family, make time, have patience, and laugh often with them. B. B. Butler
Patience

The great thing about exercising with older kids is the fact that they need exercise as much as you do. Make the most of this by making exercise a family affair. Ashlee Meadows, Stress Management: Destressing Tips For Moms
Quotes to Live By

Richard Branson advised that entrepreneurs should also take some time off from work and enjoy the company of their family or friends. Norbert Richards, Richard Branson Unofficial
Quote of The Day

The ability of a family to work hand in hand and to successfully manage every event that takes their time on a daily basis is the key to a successful family. T.P.Stone, Time management for the family
Successful

Isn’t living close to work and having more time with your family more important than living far away only so you can tell people you live in a fancy place to impress others? Gabriel Torres, Money Myths
Top Ten Quotes on Time

In today’s fast-paced world, it can be challenging to make time for your family. However, family is a strong value among many people. Ace McCloud, Forgiveness
Quote of The Day

How to change stressful dinners with kids into precious family time

  • Today, just take time to smell the roses, enjoy those little things about your life, your family, spouse, friends, job. Forget about the thorns -the pains and problems they cause you – and enjoy life. Rock Bankole, How to Be Happy
    Family and Friends Quotes
  • More Quotes to inspire and encourage

    The Reset Button

    Family life in the 21 st century can be very busy, especially for families with children. No matter what the situation, schedules fill up quickly. Regardless of the number of children, the location, or the economic situation, every day gets jam-packed with activities. Parents often feel like life is too hectic. Everyone runs around like a bunch of high-strung barnyard chickens all the time. When you consider after-school activities, homework, doctor’s appointments, sports practices, and other commitments, it’s easy to see why. The daily grind can become so overwhelming it seems like there’s hardly any time to take a deep breath, relax, and enjoy life. If this resonates with you, don’t worry. There’s an antidote. A simple way to hit the life-reset button. It’s something that almost everyone knows about.

    An old-fashioned family dinner.

    Family Dinner: The Benefits

    Over the past decade, studies in child development have shown that regular routines and rituals help kids in many ways. Routines and rituals give kids a sense of belonging, a sense of consistency, and help them find their place in the world. Whether it’s a regular before-school routine, a regular after-school routine, or a regular Saturday morning routine, kids rely on these recurring activities to feel safe and secure in their lives.

    Recent research into daily routines shows that regular family dinners, in particular, can have a tremendous upside for children. The latest news shows regular family dinners can reduce the likelihood of child depression, create an environment that helps prevent teenage pregnancy and drug use, and raise both self-esteem and academic performance. In terms of academics, a consistent family dinner routine increases not only a child’s functional vocabulary but also their level of reading comprehension.

    In addition to creating a safe, secure, and reliable routine that they can count on, regular family dinner time is a great way to introduce kids to chores. It doesn’t matter how old a child is. There’s always a way they can help out with dinner. Children under 5 can sprinkle spices on food while it’s cooking. Children under 10 can set and clear the table. Pre-teens and adolescents can help cook. In fact, many teenagers revel in the opportunity to prepare an entire meal by themselves. For busy parents, this kills two birds with one stone. Kids take over cooking duty and get a boost in self-esteem by performing a valuable task for the family.

    Family Dinner: Helpful Hints

    For families that are extremely busy, putting something new on the daily schedule may seem a little bit daunting. Just the thought of it might even be stressful. The idea may come across as a little bit nuts, since the whole point in the first place is to reduce stress. In the case of family dinner, however, it just takes a little bit of faith.

    If your family makes it a priority, it’s almost guaranteed that your family will be thankful, and before long everyone will wonder how they ever got by without family dinner. While the research shows that the greatest dividends for children come when families have at least five dinners per week together, that’s not always possible.

    At first, start with just three nights a week. Make them theme nights. Many families have taco Tuesdays, spaghetti Wednesdays, and stir-fry Thursdays. A great way to start getting kids to do chores is to rotate them through the potential jobs until they find their perfect match: some love to set the table, some love to chop vegetables and, believe it or not, some even love to do the dishes. Eventually, every family will create its own version of family dinner, and the best way for a family to find what works for them is by trial and error. In the end, it really doesn’t matter how you do it – it just matters that you give it a good, honest try.

    How to change stressful dinners with kids into precious family time

    Angus is a writer from Atlanta, GA who writes about behavioral health, adolescent development, education, and mindfulness practices like yoga, tai chi, and meditation.