If you’re not feeling connected to your spouse after work, if family dinner in your house has disintegrated into a chaotic free-for-all, then it’s time to make some changes to your evening meal routine.

True, there are many nights when conflicting kid and adult schedules make sitting down together impossible. However, insisting on at least one night per week when everyone comes together can sow the seeds of connection.

With one or more of these simple habits at the table, dinner time can become more than just another chore on your “to-do” list.

1. Turn off all screens and electrical devices during the meal.

If it’s not allowed on an airline take-off, then don’t use it during dinner. No TV, cell phones, iPods, laptops, or tablets during the meal. Commit to a set period of time–10, 20, or 30 minutes -- for everyone to stay at the table, screen-free.


2. Share a highlight during the meal.

One at a time, have everyone at the table share a special moment from their day. Listen attentively as others share something positive. Not only is this a way to connect with each other, it will also redirect the evening away from the stresses of the day. It will drive home the point that even a harried day has its small joys or pleasures.

3. Touch your significant other during the meal.

Make an intentional effort to touch your mate’s arm, hand, or leg while you dine. Most couples forget the power of simple, regular touches to convey affection and build connection. You can engender a feeling of emotional security for your children when they see loving behaviors. And you will also model for them that it is normal and healthy for couples to touch.

4. Gain perspective.

Look around the table and breathe it all in. Young children will grow up. Things will change. Everything you see is temporary, in flux, and precious. Remind yourself to savor each moment because, for better or for worse, “this too shall pass.”

5. Compliment your mate after the meal.

Pay your spouse a compliment after the meal. Tell them you appreciated the delicious dinner and their efforts. Tell them you appreciate their hard work in providing for the family. Most couples are chronically compliment-deprived. Find something to appreciate–rather than to nag about–and let them know. This creates a spirit of kindness for the evening ahead and it models a climate of appreciation for children.

6. Nuzzle your mate’s neck during cleanup.

Cleaning up is nobody’s favorite job. As your mate is at the kitchen sink, go up behind them and playfully nuzzle the back of their neck. The neck is a powerhouse of nerve endings. Help lighten the mood of clean-up with an intimate physical connection.

By practicing these simple habits inspired by Shortcuts to Inner Peace, you’ll find that dining together can be a source of nourishment, not just for your body, but also for your family and for your romantic relationship.

This article was originally published on The Huffington Post.

Ashley Davis Bush, LICSW is a licensed psychotherapist specializing in couples therapy, grief counseling, and trauma recovery. She has written six self-help books including “75 Habits for a Happy Marriage.” Ashley felt a calling early on in her life to help people live richer, deeper, more fulfilled lives. Her work for the past 25 years –both as a therapist and as a writer – is designed to inspire others toward whole-hearted living. Read more about Ashley on her website.

When I was expecting my first child, I wanted to know everything that could possibly be in store for his first year.

I quizzed my own mom and the friends who ventured into motherhood before I did. I absorbed parenting books and articles like a sponge. I signed up for classes on childbirth, breastfeeding and even baby-led weaning. My philosophy? The more I knew, the better.

Yet, despite my best efforts, I didn't know it all. Not by a long shot. Instead, my firstborn, my husband and I had to figure it out together—day by day, challenge by challenge, triumph by triumph.


The funny thing is that although I wanted to know it all, the surprises—those moments that were unique to us—were what made that first year so beautiful.

Of course, my research provided a helpful outline as I graduated from never having changed a diaper to conquering the newborn haze, my return to work, the milestones and the challenges. But while I did need much of that tactical knowledge, I also learned the value of following my baby's lead and trusting my gut.

I realized the importance of advice from fellow mamas, too. I vividly remember a conversation with a friend who had her first child shortly before I welcomed mine. My friend, who had already returned to work after maternity leave, encouraged me to be patient when introducing a bottle and to help my son get comfortable with taking that bottle from someone else.

Yes, from a logistical standpoint, that's great advice for any working mama. But I also took an incredibly important point from this conversation: This was less about the act of bottle-feeding itself, and more about what it represented for my peace of mind when I was away from my son.

This fellow mama encouraged me to honor my emotions and give myself permission to do what was best for my family—and that really set the tone for my whole approach to parenting. Because honestly, that was just the first of many big transitions during that first year, and each of them came with their own set of mixed emotions.

I felt proud and also strangely nostalgic as my baby seamlessly graduated to a sippy bottle.

I felt my baby's teething pain along with him and also felt confident that we could get through it with the right tools.

I felt relieved as my baby learned to self-soothe by finding his own pacifier and also sad to realize how quickly he was becoming his own person.

As I look back on everything now, some four years and two more kids later, I can't remember the exact day my son crawled, the project I tackled on my first day back at work, or even what his first word was. (It's written somewhere in a baby book!)

But I do remember how I felt with each milestone: the joy, the overwhelming love, the anxiety, the exhaustion and the sense of wonder. That truly was the greatest gift of the first year… and nothing could have prepared me for all those feelings.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Sound familiar? Nothing limits sleep more than parenthood. And nothing is more sought after as a parent than a nap, if not a good night's rest.

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