I love the idea of a beautifully set table, a full spread of delicious food and encouraging conversation. Can you picture it? A stress free meal where we enjoy the company of our children. But then I open my eyes and the baby is standing in his high chair, the 4 year old has food all over him because he refuses to use a fork and the teens are cleaning the bowls so fast I’m worried there won’t be enough for everyone. That’s reality. That’s my reality.
I desire mealtimes to be memorable and something my kids look back on and treasure. But not every night is something I want to remember. So how do we begin to change the atmosphere of mealtimes?
Take the stress out of meals by planning your weekly menu. Once you get the hang of it, it isn’t so daunting. You can check out how I meal plan here. If the process of preparing the meal is stressful, you will arrive at the table stressed. Plan ahead of time and plan meals that are enjoyable to prepare. (That doesn’t mean you love to cook, it just means you aren’t a nervous wreck trying to put it together.)
These are fun and create interesting conversation. There are lots of choices on the Pinterest. We keep a set on the table and at mealtimes grab a card and start talking. You can ask the question while everyone takes a turn answering or you can try to guess the answer of another! Challenge yourself.
It’s great to ask “how was your day?” But sometimes it’s fun to think outside the box and get to know each other better. We also have something similar to this deck of cards on the table for fun during mealtimes.
We have a strict no cell phones at the table. That’s for mom and dad as well. It’s hard, but makes a huge difference. We are then attentive to the people sitting around us. We have a wooden box, called cell phone jail, for those not following the rule.
Have a clean up plan. Fighting over who’s turn it is to wash dishes or sweep the floor can turn any pleasant dinner into a nightmare. Have assigned jobs or rotating jobs, whatever works best for your family. Then expect them to be done. It will take some training if there isn’t anything in place currently, but it will be so worth the effort!
In our home, one boy cleans off the table at breakfast and mom washes dishes. Then another boy cleans the table at lunch. And another boy is in charge of the dinner table. The girls clean the kitchen after dinner. Families are always growing and changing and our chores will ebb and flow as well.
I hope you will find mealtimes a peaceful and enjoyable part of your day. There are a lot of things in life that cause stress, meals shouldn’t be one of them. Food brings people together, take advantage of that and get to know your kids better.h