Easier Family Evenings in Six Steps

Okay, you’ve worked all day and the only thing on your mind is putting your feet up and relaxing. But, now you have to face the chaos of home – there’s dinner to prepare, attention-starved kids, homework to finish…no easy task, unless you’re a superhero!

But, average parents rejoice – there is hope! Follow these six easy steps and you just may find disorderly dinnertime delightful!

Extinguish work-related stress on the ride home. Listen to you favorite music or a book on tape. Indulge in a pick-me-up – your favorite healthy snack or even an occasional cup of java to reenergize. Take commuting time to shift gears.

Activate activity. The kids are happy to see you, but let’s face it – there is a lot to be done once your feet hit that front door. Get kids moving – send them outside for a game of tag or catch in nice weather, or plan “cocktail” hour with healthy kid-friendly drinks in special cups. Play “word” games while getting the work done – you remember… ” ‘A’ my name is….”; word rhyming; or naming their favorite superstar whose first name starts with the first letter of the last name said.

Slow transition. Sure, we all know there’s a lot to be done once you get home, but take it easy. Encourage kids to share their day once you’ve settled in, then put the chores on hold and spend some quality time, even if it’s just a few minutes. This may be difficult at first, but if they realize you will give them some time before getting the work done, in time, they will be happy to wait.

Institute a plan. A little pre-planning will make evenings less stressful. Keep shopping list up-to-date. Write down necessary things as they run out (this is a good job for the older child). Take a few minutes each week to plan your menu and make sure you have all the necessary ingredients. This will save time and aggravation during the week. Gather supplies before heading out the door in the morning – defrost meats in refrigerator and put non-perishables out to save scrambling around in the evening. Put your crock-pot to use. Get up a few minutes earlier and throw dinner in the crock-pot – come home to a hot, freshly prepared meal!

Everyone on deck! Make dinner chores a family affair – give everyone a job. Older kids can set the table or help with dinner. Give smaller kids kitchen play ware, so they think they’re helping.

Regulate time. Schedule at least a few minutes where kids can have your undivided attention. Set aside time exclusively for homework. Trying to have kids finish homework while your cooking only increases stress for all of you. Don’t allow TV time or playtime till the homework is done. Make sure you know kids schedules. If they have a weeklong project, nip at it every night – don’t wait till the last minute. Regulate bedtime rituals for a smoother transition into relaxation.

With a little patience and creativity, even exasperating evenings can be turned into enjoyable!

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