By: Jessica Gantman MS, CCC-SLP

HELP! Dinnertime is chaos in my house! No one wants to sit, everyone wants a screen and I’ve become a short order cook! What can I do?

If you’ve ever experienced this frustration, you’re not alone. As a parent, you probably want to take time out of your busy schedule to come together as a family and enjoy each other’s company. That can be difficult, though, especially for families that have children with sensory, feeding, or language disorders.

With the holidays coming up, now is a great time to begin a new routine that your children can get used to before adding extra family members and other distractions to the mix.

A “dinner contract” will detail 3-4 clear dinnertime rules. You can come up with it yourself or with your children.  Pick what is most applicable to your own family.  After the rules have been set, have each person in your family sign it and post it where it is easily visible.

Some examples of rules could be:

Dinner is at the table and screens are not welcome.  

Be firm on this.  You can have a bin or a cabinet where screens can go during mealtimes so they are not accessible.

By having access to screen time during dinner, your child may be missing out on learning important social skills that come from interacting with other people.

Set a timer for sitting at the dinner table.

Time depends on your children’s ages.  We don’t expect a 2-year-old to sit as long as a 6-year-old. We don’t expect children to like every food.

What is cooked is what’s for dinner.

Yes, it’s a hard line.  As the parents or caregivers of your family, you will know how strict or lenient to be with this rule, depending on your situation.  You CAN make your children an integral part of meal planning to ensure successful mealtimes.  

Pick a day to meal plan with your children.  Create a sheet with all the meal component options-proteins, veggies, starches, fats, etc, and have your child circle one to make a complete meal.  Additionally, take your children to the supermarket with you!

Lastly, this does not have to seem like a punishment for your children.  It isn’t!  Keep it positive and explain why you feel family time and conversation is crucial given our high-tech society.  To enhance conversation you can Google “kids conversation starters”, do an alphabet or color scavenger hunt, or play “I spy”.  Happy mealtime!

Let us know how we can help! Our team is qualified to evaluate your child if you believe he or she would benefit from speech-language, occupational, or feeding therapy. Contact us to learn more and set up a consultation.