Dec 15, 2017
Ah, a night out to eat with the family. It’s nice now and again to let someone else do the cooking, but do you feel happy to step out of the door with your children or worried about how they will behave once you get there?
Do you feel like you have to fill your bag filled with an arsenal of entertaining toys, devices, book and games just for a single evening meal away from home?
Does a night out with your children feel more like arming yourself for battle?
Those moments to go out and be together as a family should be a time of enjoyment and connection.
These days, it seems like sitting all together for a family meal is a rare treat marked with going out to a favorite eatery.
Meals at home become a challenge with conflicting work schedules, sports practices and after school activities. Lately, we are seeing more articles published advocating the importance of family mealtime and we work hard to savor those occasions to relax and unwind with our families.
Children also enjoy special outings with loved ones and with some simple preparations, they can dine out with their families without the need for elaborate games or dependency on digital distractions.
Here are 5 steps to a better dinner out:
1. Eating is sharing
Mealtime is a moment that allows relationships to deepen through the expression of thoughts and feelings. By including our children in mealtime conversations we are modeling appropriate table manners, the art of conversation as well as enriching language. At home, make time to converse with your child. Tell them simple stories about your day. Talk about books you are reading together or activities that are coming up on the family calendar. This at-home practice will create a ritual that will prove beneficial when sitting at a restaurant table.
2. No Punishments, No Rewards
Going out to eat is simply moving the family meal from one table to another. The family rules concerning mealtime should be universal. When we begin to offer conditions of behavior such as, “If you don’t sit nicely in your chair, you won’t get to play with your toy.” Or, “Look how nicely you are sitting in your chair – here you can play with this toy,” we are allowing the child to believe that eating out carries a separate expectation of behavior than eating at home. If the family rule is that one stays in ones chair during a meal – that rule should be the same wherever you go.
3. Bring Along an Activity Bag
At home, the family is gathered to the table when the meal is ready to serve. Restaurants call upon families to wait for service and meal preparation so in addition to conversation, it’s helpful to have a small bag available to the child that will hold activities to pass the time. Before leaving the house, invite the child to choose 1 or 2 activities (pre-selected by you) that he/she wishes to take with them. Make sure that the activities are self-contained (such as a magnetic drawing board, a fidget stick or a book) and easily stored away by the child. Avoid activities with breakable pieces (such as crayons) and parts that can be misplaced (such as caps to markers). Electronic devices should stay at home. Digital game players and apps remove the child from understanding the significance of sharing food and togetherness. The symbolism of the family meal and the social lessons it teaches will be lost through the absorption of attention to a screen!
4. Plan Wiggle Time
Busy restaurants can often mean long wait times. Be pro-active and help your child channel his/her energy in a positive way. At home, before you get in the car, let your child run and play outside 10-15 minutes before you want to leave. Inclement weather? Sing some action songs and do some yoga stretches. When you arrive to the restaurant, instead of carrying your child, take the time to have your child walk with you. Have them carry their activity bag. Once you order, take the time to walk together to the bathroom to use the toilet and wash hands. By acknowledging the child’s need for movement and providing opportunities to move – we greatly reduce the dinner time wiggles and potential “melt downs.”
5. Role Model At Home
Play the restaurant game! Take turns pretending to be the server, the chef and the patrons. Make a point of modeling table manners and turn a regular family meal into a fun ‘night –in.’
Want more advice? Contact me today and let’s talk about how we can work together to create more meaningful moments for your family and create the home environment you dream of.
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How did your last night out to eat with your family go? In the comment section below, tell us all about it!