shutterstock_90930113_smiley_pancakesSo you made it! Congratulations! You’ve moved beyond the bag-of-Cheerios-in-the-purse phase and traded in your ever-ready collection of matchbox cars for a shiny lip gloss that makes you feel more va-va-voom and less va-va-vomit-in-your-hair. Your kids are older, and even though you sometimes long for the days of teeny-tiny cuteness, there’s actually a light at the end of the self-sustaining human being tunnel. You deserve a night out! Now before the thought of heading out with your brood sends you into a panic, we can help! Dining out with older kids comes with its own set of challenges. And while you can probably (at long last) get all the way through your meal while it’s STILL WARM at this point, it doesn’t mean your kids won’t need a little help getting through a public meal from time to time. Try these tips for making your next family restaurant experience a more relaxing and delicious success!

Empower Them – Let’s be honest, most so-called “kids” menus try to force Mickey Mouse pancakes and the like on tweens and adolescents whose eye-rolls could slay an entire army of cartoon shaped griddle cakes. Next time empower your child by letting them order off the adult menu. You can set boundaries, like a dollar amount for the entrée or a certain section of the menu, like sandwiches or pasta. Not only will you earn major parent shutterstock_9424864_spaghetti_platespoints for incorporating math AND deductive reasoning skills into the meal, setting limits will also help you avoid a wasted $60 surf and turf order. Giving them the power of choice lets them know that you recognize their independence and are excited to share a grown up experience with them. Plus it’s fun to help them discover new cuisines and dishes!

Split Entrees – Despite their grown up notions, most adult entrees are still too big for the 10-12 year old crowd. Next time try ordering an entree and splitting it between two kids. Many restaurants will also bring the dish already divided (sometimes for a small charge) so that you don’t have to deal with the hassle of splitting it at the table and risk one child feeling like they were shorted on portion size

Tag Team – The name of the game is divide and conquer when it comes to meal-time conversation with older kids. We all have these notions of deep and meaningful Norman Rockwell conversations over the dinner table. And frankly, those can be pretty hard to come by. If you have more than one child, try a tag team approach with your partner. While you’re discussing the finer points of One Direction with her, let your partner engage him about school, the new Call of Duty release, extra curriculars, etc.

shutterstock_58445812_shrimp_entreeMix and Match –Expand your kids’ palates by encouraging them to order something
they’ve never tried before. This can be kind of intimidating for a child who is new to the adult menu, so offer to order a “safe” back up for yourself. That way if the new dish doesn’t live up to their expectations, you can always mix and match your meals to keep everyone happy.

Electronics Aren’t The End of The World – We all want to be great parents who can coax long diatribes out of our kids, but sometimes the electronics are going to win out over your most sincere questions about their lives and interests. If your child has a cell phone, try sending a text message from across the table. This generally produces a giggle and a prized mono-syllabic response in our house. But remember to cut yourself some slack. Every now and then it’s okay just to be there enjoying a meal together, iPhones and all.

No matter how you chose to get through a meal excursion with the family, is here to make sure dining out together doesn’t break the bank. So grab a certificate to a restaurant near you and try our tips on for size. What are your secrets to navigating a dinner out with older kids? We’d love to try ‘em!