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4 Positive Habits for a Relaxing Family Dinner

For working moms and dads, here are some simple practices to bring joy and peace around the table after a long, busy day.

Relaxing family dinner
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Julia Child is quoted as saying, “The dinner hour is a sacred, happy time when everyone should be together and relaxed.” So how about a relaxing family dinner?

The great chef and her husband never had children. So those of us raising kids might think the sacred happiness of a dinner hour sounds lovely but unattainable. Competing schedules, food preferences, and conversational skills often conspire against best-laid plans.

Any of us can find our way to a relaxing family dinner, though. It calls for settling the family into some habits that bring us together in an easy, love-filled way.

1) Set the Table

Even if you’re standing up at the counter for a quick bite before heading out to an evening activity, take a moment to set out a placemat, napkin, and a plate. That can bring you as much contentment as the food you’re serving. Making physical space for your evening meal—even if the “dinner hour” is more like 10 minutes—cues your whole family to tune in and chill out at suppertime.

2) Seed the Conversation

Need to spark lively conversation around the dinner table? There are many versions of “conversation cards.” You can pick them up or download them for a fresh supply of questions, reflections, or facts. It will elevate the conversation beyond “how was your day?” or “don’t forget to….”  Everyone will come to the table knowing they can leave the stresses of the day behind and enjoy a fun, relaxed family dinner with those who love them most.

3) Empower Your Eaters

At my son’s school, the cafeteria menu changes each lunchtime, but students always have two additional options if they aren’t enticed by the offering. At dinnertime, you can make a similar plan. Always offer a simple sandwich, a bowl of cereal, or scrambled eggs as a no-fuss alternative for those who aren’t thrilled with the menu. This will empower your picky eaters to make their own choices. And it will disrupt arguments about ingredients or portions, and preserve peace around food you’ve prepared. Now that’s a relaxing family dinner!

4) Don’t Force It

Maybe someone has a major homework project due tomorrow. Or they had an exhausting day at work. They may just not be hungry. Let them be excused. They’ll get something to eat eventually, and you’ll be showing them that you see and hear that they’re not in the right place for family time. Remind them that you love them, and that you’ll be right there at the table tomorrow, ready to nourish and relax together.

What’s your recipe for a relaxing family dinner?

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