How to Create Mealtime Bliss continued...
Further, experts say, don't use family mealtime to discuss the "honey-do" list, your medical problems, or why you hate your boss, or your mother.
"Make it a time that centers on the positive things that happened that week or that day," says Donaldson. "It's the time to tell your spouse or your children, or both, that what they did that week or that day made you really proud."
3. Take a Breather Before You Hit the Kitchen
The table can look great, the music may be delightful, the food might smell terrific, but if the cook is frenzied, those at the table will be too, experts say.
"When you get home, take a few minutes before heading into the kitchen to collect yourself," says Renee Schettler, food editor at Real Simple magazine and author of Meals Made Easy. "Take a deep breath and, whether you have 30 seconds or 30 minutes, try to put the day behind you and give yourself the chance to switch gears before you try to make everyone else relax."
It also helps to get many dinner-related tasks done ahead of time.
"Put the meat in the marinade in the morning or wash the vegetables and boil the macaroni or potatoes for salads the night before," says Schettler. "The less you have to do at mealtime, the more relaxed you will be and the more relaxed your family will feel."
4. Keep It Real
Although it would be great if you could make every meal a shelter from the storm, realistically, there are days when that's just not going to happen.
"Family meals do not have to take place every night," says Van Berber, "nor do they need extensive planning."
To make relaxing meals a reality, she says, schedule them on your calendar. And remember, that dinnertime isn't the only time you can have a special meal.
"If breakfast is easier to plan than a dinner meal, make a commitment to gather in the morning several times a week," she says.