We know mealtime might become a stressful experience, especially in todays hurried life, dinner may become something you pick up from the grocery store and quickly slam together to create a tasty but still healthy meal. There might not be much time between picking the children up, extracurricular activities, sport and getting dinner on the table and it’s normal to be feeling flustered about it.
Let’s look at some of the ways you could turn the table on mealtime stress and relieve some of the pressure at meal times.
Routine in Childcare
We asked our Approved Provider, Penny Farrell, who has 3 children of her own for her top tips to Eliminate Mealtime stress. “At our centres located at Frenchville - Rockhampton North and Gracemere, routines particularly around mealtimes are an important component of our program. Children tend to feel safe when they know there are set rules and routines and thus providing a foundation for the daily tasks in childcare”
Eat at the Table
Sitting around the table allows a family to come together and taking this time to be together gives family members the chance to talk about their days. It also allows parents to model proper table manners, healthy eating, and important social skills for their children to learn.
It’s not always possible but when it is, eating together as a family is a powerful way to connect with your children. It can take some of the stress out of the meal as you take the time to sit and enjoy your meal and time together. This makes for stronger parent-child relationships.
Make a blanket rule that no devices will be allowed at the dinner table – adults included and switch the TV off as well. This will not only encourage discussion and family conversation but also there won’t be any distractions that cause chaos. Remember rules creates boundaries and boundaries makes everyone feel safe.
Put out what the acceptable and unacceptable behaviour at the table is and stick to it. Having set rules may help lessen power struggles. The important thing is that you stay consistent with your mealtime expectations, so your children know what is acceptable and what is not. Point out their good behaviour – look for positive things your children are doing during the meal and praise simple things.
Do Easy Meals
Think about what you generally cook when you’re in a time crunch. Maybe it’s spaghetti, tacos, or grilled chicken salad. Meal plan around these easy meals. If you don’t have a very long list, search for some quick and easy recipes that you can plan around. Doing easy meals helps alleviate the stress of thinking about and preparing the meals.
Involve the Children
There is nothing wrong with your children helping in the kitchen! It is wonderful training for their future, little one’s can help put ingredients in bowls or bags or even just “washing dishes”, packing the dishwasher set the table – any help is always a treasure, and it takes the pressure off both parents and children alike, creating happier family meals. Consider having smaller children prepare breakfast meals by themselves – they can cut up bananas and serve it with yogurt and muesli.
Give yourself credit and remember make any mealtime about family time, rather than get-my-child-to-eat time and teach them that mealtimes aren’t just about eating, but also about connecting with family.