If the idea of hosting a dinner party makes you want to hide in the toy closet, please refrain from hitting the panic button long enough to consider the upside. Countless studies recognize the importance of spending time with friends. Laughing increases well-being. Bonding with people in similar situations helps you feel happier and healthier.
So take hold off on that busy schedule and prioritize connecting with other families. Get to know your neighbors, spend quality time with folks from your children’s school or catch up with old pals. Here are ten tips to keep it low-stress, so that the hosts can relax and enjoy too. Hey, we parents have enough gray hair as it is!
1. Just schedule it
Seriously, get it on the calendar. Even if it has to be months in advance. Plan ahead and you can make it happen.
2. Keep it small
Most families come in at least three-person packages so invite only two groups to keep it manageable. That way you can talk with each guest and make sure everyone has a spot to sit comfortably.
3. Choose a theme
It doesn’t have to be elaborate. Pick something appealing for all age groups, like Pasta Night or Mexican Fiesta. That way you don’t have to cook multiple meals for the kids and adults. Guests who know what to expect may even bring a complementary dish or drink.
4. Keep it simple yet fun
Interesting touches, like mustaches and sombreros or a pizza-topping bar, spice up the party and make the occasion feel more special.
5. Tap into a chef!
I’m super lucky to have two chefs in my family (my aunt and brother-in-law). A party is so much less stressful and the food significantly more memorable when a professional, experienced at blending flavors and serving groups, takes the reigns. Consider using KitchenSurfing.com, a service which brings a chef to your home to prepare and serve an amazing meal for $50 per person. Talk about less muss and fuss for the host.
6. Start cleaning the house days in advance
If your home is like ours, there are piles of school papers and stacks of toys everywhere. Start clearing the clutter days ahead of time so you feel less stressed going into the gathering. And who knows, you may find you don’t need half the stuff anyway and end up donating it.
7. Have outfits ready that morning
There’s nothing more stressful that searching the laundry piles five minutes before the guests arrive, in a panic to find the pants that match your daughter’s sweater. I’m also guilty of spending so much time preparing everything else that I’ve answered the door in old, stained shirt. Make sure the whole family’s ensembles are clean and ready early that day. Dress a half-hour before the guests are expected.
8. Get in the party mood
Light some scented candles and turn on a Pandora station to match the occasion. Let the good tunes get you ready for a great time.
9. Help the kids entertain themselves
Buy or make a new game to get the kids playing together on their own. For example, cut three holes into a poster board (maybe even designed to match your theme), hang it in a doorway and have kids toss small beanbags through. Keeping the little ones happily engaged makes it easier for the parents to take it easy and enjoy adult conversation.
10. Relax and enjoy!
Get-togethers are about connecting over good conversation. Mix, mingle and repeat! Bonding with other parents helps us realize we’re not alone in our everyday struggles, laugh at the absurdities of raising children, and perhaps recognize ways we can help each other out. Because that’s what friends are for.