Keep it intimate
Hosting more than 14 or so people for dinner gets to be a hassle. Invite just two or three families to get together. It will be fun but not completely overwhelming. In the summer months, consider taking the party outside and cooking on the grill.
Host on a Saturday
Friday night will be almost impossible because most people (including you) work during the day. Saturday will give you plenty of prep time, and your guests will be more likely to want to hang out a little later.
Pick simple meals
Dishes don't have to elaborate to be tasty or elegant. Choose simple recipes without a lot of ingredients or elaborate prep time. Include a vegetarian dish if you aren't sure about the food preferences of your guests. Allow your guests to select from two bottles of wine. Also, make it easier on yourself and purchase a store-bought dessert from the local bakery.
Set up a kids' table
No one says that the kids have to be sitting at the table with the good china and the crystal wine glasses. Set up a separate table (a card table will work for four or fewer children) where they can enjoy kid-friendly foods -- like mac and cheese or chicken nuggets -- and chatter among themselves.
Make it a slumber party
No, we aren't suggesting that all your dinner guests spend the night -- just the kids. Set up your family room with lots of pillows, sleeping bags and some movies on the DVD player. Kids can munch on popcorn and other snacks, falling asleep whenever they are ready. This will allow your adult guests to stay a little later and enjoy some time together while the kids are doing their own thing.
Don't sweat the small stuff
Kids make messes, spill drinks and sometimes even break things. Put away your valuable and/or breakable items before your guests arrive, and childproof your home if your friends have babies or toddlers. Don't stress out when small things go wrong; something is bound to happen with kids around. What makes a dinner party successful is the company and the conversation, so don't sweat the small stuff.