Thursday, April 3, 2014

How to Have a Happy Family Meal

A reader wrote to me recently, "I would love suggestions for how to ENJOY family dinner. I honestly hate family dinner at our house...My kids are great when we all eat together at Grandma's...but it's pretty much just stressful almost every night: the kids are all complaining abut their food, they're fighting with each other, everyone believes everyone else's conversational topics are boring and tries to short circuit them, every kid has 5 requests which he has to interrupt everyone for. I end up wishing I *could* just eat by myself before everyone else comes to the table just so I can digest my food in peace. What is our problem?"

My heart went out to her!

I write about happy family mealtimes, but believe me, when our kids were growing up, there were plenty of meals that I just wanted to be over. Every night won't be one big happy family. There will be seasons when it will seem like that never happens. But don't give up!

First and foremost, Mom and Dad need to be on the same page about the importance of meals, the "rules", the enforcement, and being all there themselves. If that's a problem, try a Dinner Just for Mom and Dad to talk about this!

I did a round up of suggestions to make the goal of happy family meals a possibility in your home. While I may not endorse all their ideas, and I certainly don't know what the rest of these websites talk about, here are some practical ideas to solve some of the dilemma's you might be facing that hinder your joy at family mealtimes.

The New Rules of Happy Family Meals
The Ladies Home Journal has 9 great suggestions to make a family mealtime happier (for you), healthier, (for all), and a time of more connection (for your family).  Note: you can click through to the other pages even though you can't get rid of the over-ad on page one.

Fight for Your Family Mealtime
Blogger Jennifer Schmidt talks about watching her teenage sons eat noodles directly from the pot while she prepared a talk on "The Importance of Family Meals"! It happens to the best of us, but she also talks about the atmosphere benefits of having candles at every meal, even frozen pizza meals, conversation starting questions, and being all there.

Focus on the Family
The ministry with that name was brilliant in choosing that name! To make your family your focus, and getting your kids to focus (or at least not be distracted by technology) will enhance family mealtimes and be a big factor in a happy family mealtime. This is a link to a short FotF video on the topic.

Making Mealtimes Pleasant
One of my pet peeves is no one coming when I call them for a meal. But I have to realize that it's hard to suddenly drop whatever you doing and run to the table. I've learned to give a "warning call". That's just one of the ideas you'll find in this article that helps our families come to the table with a good attitude.

De-Stress the Environment
Wouldn't it be great if an article could tell you how to take the stress out of your life, but that's always going to be there. This article has some great ideas about how to tone down the stress possibilities for you at mealtime, like using non-breakable dishes for little ones, (or everyone!). That way you aren't tense about breaking something valuable. Check out some of their other ideas.

Eat! Eat! Eat!
Actually, not. When our focus becomes on what and how much our kids eat and making sure they are in the "clean plate club," no one's going to have a happy meal. Here are some suggestions for getting kids to eat healthily, without ruining your dinner.

Minimize Annoying Behavior
This mom has some great ideas about how to deal with habits your kids have that really annoy you, in a positive way! Take a minute to read her thoughts.

Check Blood Sugar Levels
Don't actually do a blood test (unless you have a diabetic in the family) but make sure no one is starving for the last half hour before a meal. "No snacking, we don't want to spoil our dinner" should maybe change to "Have a little snack. We don't want to spoil our mood." 

Other great ideas that so many mention:
Include them in the Work
Making Serving Others a Priority
Use Questions and Conversation Starters
Risk the Mess, Get them Involved in Cooking
Be Proactive about Picky Eaters

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Did you know that Around the Table: Connecting With Your Family at Mealtimes is available on Kindle?

You can get a copy today for only $4.75!

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  1. Sharon, I love these, and thank you for the resources! I love how some of the older "laws" such as "don't spoil your dinner" may not have been the best approach after all...'don't spoil your mood" is a great thing to focus on instead. We repeat some of those older things automatically b/c that's what we heard. Stopping to see if some of our approaches really make sense is a healthy attitude (about lots of things, not just mealtimes!). When my kids were little, I tried hard not to make everything an issue...I tried to remember to pick my battles.

    Thanks for a helpful post with really important information! ♥


  2. Thanks for the links and resources. These are great tips and my fondest memories are those around the table as the kids were growing, not to mention mine as a kid. Great way to start the week. I'm stopping in today from Lisa's at Grandma's Briefs.

  3. Great links, gonna pass this on. Babushka had some interesting times w/her trio during dinner, but we lived through it- and I think that's important to remember. Here from the Grand Social and enjoyed this post very much. Gracias.



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