Meet the Nogueiras! Michelle is an addiction counselor who specializes in helping families manage technology, and she found The Family Dinner Project through our Tech at the Table resources with our friends at Common Sense Media. After hearing from Michelle about how she was using our resources both personally and professionally, we invited her to share her family’s story!
Michelle and John Nogueira and son Noah (13), of Guelph, Ontario Canada.
Both Michelle and John grew up in households where family dinners were extremely important. In John’s Portuguese family, dinnertime was a time to be savored, where family members would linger at the table after eating to enjoy one another’s company. For Michelle, Sunday dinners were a weekly tradition to look forward to, and making the same meals for her own family now brings her back to her childhood.
But as John observes, the Nogueiras “lead busy, separate lives,” making dinnertime both more challenging and more important. The current goal is for the family to eat most of their meals together, around the dining table, without any digital distractions — including television. John and Michelle hope to recreate some of the connection and warmth of family meals from their own childhoods.
Unlike many busy families, the Nogueiras don’t find it particularly difficult to get everyone to the table for meals on a regular basis. What’s hard, Michelle reflects, is staying there. “Our biggest challenge is being thoughtful and intentional around dinnertime,” she says, “taking time to slow down, enjoy meals, eat slowly and connect as a family.” She says she actually has to force herself to just sit and be in the moment at mealtimes, and similarly, John is constantly reminding Noah to slow down and not rush away from the table.
“With busy schedules it seems like everything is so rushed. It’s very easy to rush through dinner, eat fast, and quickly leave the table to do all the other things that need to get done versus enjoying the whole experience.”
Incorporating a routine conversation starter into their meals has been helpful for the Nogueira family, setting the tone for mealtimes and getting everyone to be mindful of their time together at the table. The family enjoys the “Rose and Thorn” activity and uses it nightly — so much so that now, when Noah brings friends over for dinner, they ask “Are we going to do that thing you guys do at meals?”
The unanimous favorite in the Nogueira household is not only a cherished family dinner menu, but also their traditional Christmas Eve feast: Barbecued steak, baked potatoes loaded with butter, sour cream, cheese and bacon, Caesar salad, sauteed mushrooms and onions and fresh bread.
Michelle says she has really learned the value of a family “check in” at dinnertime. “A check in allows us to slow down, listen and pay attention to one another, and it always leads to further discussion.” She says that the Rose and Thorn format works best because “it gives family members an opportunity to listen and be heard. It also naturally promotes connectivity, understanding, patience and problem solving. A big thank you to The Family Dinner Project team!”
The Best Part:
Michelle: “The best part of family dinners is having the time to chat, connect, laugh, enjoy the food and be ‘in the know’ with each other’s lives.”
John: “Meal times give us an opportunity to see and catch up with each other along with belonging to something larger than our individual selves.”
Noah: “Family meal times are important to me because I get to talk to my parents…many people don’t have a good relationship with their parents, but I have a great relationship with my parents. Having ‘tech free’ mealtimes is also important because it is a good time to unplug and connect. My friends especially like the (Rose and Thorn) check-in because they often don’t eat together with their families.”
Do you have your own family dinner project to share with us? We’d love to hear from you and consider featuring your family! Contact Us.