Many people go to a restaurant to enjoy a nice meal that they did not have to create or clean up afterwards. As a busy parent, especially a single parent, the thought of this should sound enjoyable. However, If just the thought of taking your children to a restaurant creates anxiety then consider the following tips to create a low stress pleasant family dining experience.
First off - do understand that children are not miniature adults and will behave like children regardless of your expectations, warnings or threats. Teach the children a habit of using good manners at home and they will be more likely to use good manners in public. Don’t expect children to use good manners in public if they don’t use them at home. By starting off with reasonable expectations you will be more likely to enjoy your restaurant experience with your children. When considering reasonable expectation you will want to think of the following areas of do’s and don’ts regarding time, place and menu.
Consider the time: Don’t take your children to a popular restaurant at its peak time especially if you have children who are easily overstimulated or distracted. Do consider that a daytime meal would be better than a light evening/night meal when children could be tired or cranky.
Consider the place: Do take your children to a family friendly restaurant - don’t take the children to the type of restaurant where even the noise of the drop of a fork will bring snarly glares. However, the noise of places with play areas could bring on a migraine. In such instances choose a table away from the play area so your children can eat without distraction and give yourself time before introducing the migraine. Besides - knowing the play area is there could be a good incentive for your child to eat.
Consider the menu: Do consider a place with a child’s menu that contains items your child already likes especially if you have a picky eater. Public dining is not an appropriate place to force children to try new things unless you can coax them into trying something new without chaos. When introducing new foods to your child try something off of your plate rather than ordering them something new. This way if they don’t like it they still have something to eat. Buffets are a great place to try something new.
Other considerations: Do consider ordering ahead, especially if the restaurant takes a long time to prepare the meal. Most children take longer to eat than the parents anyway so this is a win-win situation as it gives the child something to do and hopefully everyone will be able to finish eating at the same time.
Do consider taking along a color book and crayons to occupy your child while waiting for food to arrive. Don’t consider bringing a bunch of toys that could be thrown, cause noise, or get soiled.
For many parents family dining may create anxiety. By planning ahead and considering some basic do’s and don’ts regarding time, place and menu parents are more likely to enjoy their family dining experience. A few considerations can make a family dining outing pleasant for all involved.