The Stress-Free Dinner Hour

Can't remember the last time you had a relaxing evening? These simple strategies will turn supper into the best part of your family's day.

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Young family eating dinner together

Chances are, one of your least favorite times of the day is the evening rush hour -- and we know it has nothing to do with traffic. The minute you get home from work or carpool duty, your hungry kids start begging for your attention. Meanwhile, you're exhausted and wondering if you can get away with ordering pizza (again). No wonder research shows that working mothers tend to experience spikes in heart rate and stress during workday evenings. Stay-at-home moms feel slammed by this second shift too.

But with a little planning and streamlining, you can cut out the chaos and focus on what really matters -- reconnecting with your husband and kids. After all, eating together can strengthen family bonds and help your kids develop healthy eating habits. Use these tips to create a routine you'll love.

First on Your To-Do List? Play

Go ahead, get silly: It sets the tone for the whole evening. "When you drop everything and play with your kids, you give them the love and attention they crave when they haven't seen you for a few hours," says Parents advisor and psychologist Alice Domar, PhD, executive director of the Domar Center for Complementary Healthcare, in Waltham, Massachusetts. "They'll feel calmer and will be less resentful when you have to make dinner." Go for a 10-minute walk, toss a ball outside, or put on music and dance around the house. "Focus on what they want to talk about so they feel like they're your top priority," Dr. Domar says. You'll feel better too -- you need a transition between the afternoon's responsibilities and dinner prep.

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