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Making Family Mealtime Stress-Free

Here are 4 ways to relax at the dinner table.

How Relaxed Meals Help Couples and Singles

Kids aren't the only ones who benefit from peaceful mealtimes. Experts say that couples as well as singles reap benefits when eating is a relaxing experience.

"It's not only better for the soul and spirit to dine quietly and slowly -- even if you're alone -- but it's also good for the digestion," says Loren Ekroth, PhD, a former family therapist from Las Vegas who is the founder of

How to Create Mealtime Bliss

Of course, knowing we should relax at dinnertime is one thing; actually doing it is something else. To help you get started, our experts offer these guidelines for creating a mealtime experience everyone will look forward to.

1. Turn Down the Volume

Nothing brings down the stress level like turning down the volume of your environment. Plus, a toned-down environment helps you focus more on what you are eating, portion size, and feelings of fullness.

"That means no cell phones, no TV, and no radios blaring in the background. And it means not answering the phone during mealtime," says Ekroth.

What should be in the background? Soft, soothing music is an instant stress buster. And it lets family members hear each other as they share events of the day.

Ekroth suggests letting each family member contribute suggestions about what to play, or letting a different person pick the music for each meal. If you have a CD burner, a good family project is creating an hour of dinner music that includes everyone's favorite relaxing tunes.

2. Control the Conversation

Too often, say experts, we see dinner with our partner or family as an opportunity to air grievances. This can be particularly true for parents, who may turn the dinner hour into a discipline hour, often because they feel it's the only time they have their child's attention.

To avoid this, experts recommend establishing a few ground rules for dinnertime conversation.

"Be positive and postpone negative comments for another time," says Van Berber. "Avoid lecturing and scolding, and instead reward good manners and good behavior with positive comments."

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