Planning and hosting a family Easter dinner can be a lot of work. And not just the toiling over the hot stove, or trying to get everyone in the same place at the same time. If everyone liked eating turkey, no one had any dietary restraints, or could all behave at the dinner table, it would be terrific. But those of us with big families know this is pretty much impossible. “Perfect is the enemy of good” said Voltaire, and I suspect it might have been while he was planning a family feast.

If you’re a grandparent hosting a big Easter dinner this year, here’s some advice to help things go a little bit more smoothly, if not perfectly.

  • Ask about dietary restrictions when you issue the invitation to host the family meal. For those with specific concerns (vegan, heart smart), ask them to bring a dish which meets their needs, but also you should prepare a second dish (can be an appetizer, salad, dessert) that they will also feel comfortable eating, and welcome in your home.
  • Make a plan. If you are preparing dishes which are new to you, try to find the time to practice them first, to ensure you can easily purchase all of the ingredients, and that you have the large and small appliances needed to finish the dish. It will also help you with timing, and how a dish might taste and look if you make it a day or two early.
  • Include the grandkids in the meal planning and table decoration. The more they are involved, the more they will take ownership to make the occasion a success. Helping in the kitchen a day or two before the meal, or with simple tasks the day of, can bring them pride, not to mention real application of tactical skills. Consider letting the grandkids decide who sits where at the dinner table; you might be surprised when everyone fights to sit next to Grandma, and not next to that brother they always quarrel with.
  • Have a discussion with young kids before the meal starts as to the expectations of how long it will take to eat, what they can do if they finish first (colouring, small arts/crafts), and what table manners will be expected of them. Based on age, assign them duties to help clear the table, if they want to be released prior to the adults finishing up, but not before everyone has completed their main dish. Getting up and down from the table, except to bring requested items to the table, should be highly discouraged. (If you have an extra active grandchild, enlist them to get condiments, water, extra forks, etc., during the meal.)
  • Reinforce with adults and children, that except for an emergency situation, phones should be put aside for the meal. Need to take some pictures? Do it first, get it out of the way, and ensure that anyone included in a photo is comfortable with sharing it on social media, should some family members want to do so.
  • Have an after-dinner plan. Hopefully you’ve assigned some help for the clearing and cleaning, including the grandchildren, but if you want your guests to stick around afterwards for games, a walk, or a movie, put off most of the cleaning until they’re gone. Bear in mind that people with young children are probably exhausted at the end of the meal, and might just want to head home. It’s not an insult; it’s a need for sleep, and attempting to stick to the family schedule.

Above all, remember that the main reason you’re getting together is to get together, not to argue over eating habits, criticize others’ dietary needs or introduce disciplinary actions to the kids for the first time in front of an audience.  Happy Easter!

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