I was speaking to a friend the other day who ask me to sum up for her what my podcast, the 60 Mindful Minutes, is all about. “It’s about living intentionally,” I told her. “And that could be applied to business, parenting, the space you live in and the places you travel. It’s about being more conscious in how we create our life.”
This week’s episode is all about how we can bring more intentionality and awareness to something many of us experience every day: family dinner. If we’re not careful, or unaware, the meals we create and meet around each day can start to feel like a chore instead of pleasure. And while I can certainly attest to sometimes feeling the drudgery of preparing a dinner each night, my guest today will tell you that dinnertime is not really about the food at all; it’s about the connection.
Brianne DeRosa is the co-author of the brand new book Eat, Laugh, Talk: The Family Dinner Playbook,and she’s is the Content Manager for The Family Dinner Project, a nonprofit initiative that started in 2010 to champion family dinner as an opportunity for family members to connect with each other through food, fun and conversation about things that matter.
Here’s what’s interesting: More than 20 years of scientific research shows why family mealtimes are so important. And while we probably all know this in our gut, these days family dinner is a lot easier said than done. So, The Family Dinner Project isn’t just about “why” but it also provides the “how” for today’s busy families.
- Framing dinner as a place for food but also fun and conversation changes the spirit of dinnertime and gives it an intention or direction. Yes, it’s when we refuel but not just in our stomach; also in our heart.
- Brianne pointed to some pretty amazing research, and there is more on the site that shows that there isn’t a single activity that has all the benefits of togetherness all at the same time like family dinnertime has: Our health—which includes our emotional well-being, our body, brain and spirit—are all positively impacted. Plus, it supports our capacity to have more resilience, academic achievement and better vocabulary.
- Dinnertime sends the message that we matter, that our family unit matters. Dinnertime gives us the chance to spend time honoring that.
- Dinnertime is our opportunity to share our stories so we get a sense of each other, including who we are but also where we come from. It’s when we can be seen and known by the people who love us most.
- These days, with computers and TVs and cell phones in most rooms in our house and also in our car, we don’t’ have the organic opportunity to be together and to connect. Dinner needs to be a sacred space.
- We have to work at conversation and connecting, opening up. It’s helpful, and maybe even necessary, to do the prep work to have some thoughtful, fun, open-ended questions on hand.
- Take tense topics off the menu. Dinnertime needs to be fun, not stressful. For years Marc and I have had the rule that we don’t talk about money in bed, especially right before we’re about to fall asleep. Same applies to dinnertime – it’s not the time to reprimand or rehash conflict that happened earlier in the day.
- The quality of the food is secondary to the quality of the connection. Just get to the table together, even if that means take-out or warming up leftovers. Just get there. Eat and talk and have fun together.
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It was such a delight having Brianne on the podcast. You can learn more about the Family Dinner Project here: thefamilydinnerproject.org.
Until next time,