For many families, eating dinner together has become a lost art—but it proves to be a simple,effective way to reduce the risk of youth substance abuse and to raise healthier children. Before family dinners go the way of the dinosaur, let’s make the effort to preserve family mealtime – and not just for the holidays.
The facts are on the table: eating dinner together every night keeps the doors of communication open. It’s the perfect time and place to reconnect and to show your kids that they are your priority. Sitting across the table is where and when you can find out more about your children’s likes, dislikes, and daily life. Having this information can help you direct your children toward positive activities and behavior, reducing the likelihood that they will get involved with alcohol,tobacco, and/or illegal drugs.
Parental influence and involvement is an important tool in preventing substance abuse. Regularly sitting down for a meal with your children is one way to connect with them and be involved with what is happening in their lives. According to the Center for Alcohol and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University, teens who have frequent family dinners are nearly half as likely to use marijuana and tobacco, drink alcohol and get drunk on a monthly basis when compared to teens who have infrequent family dinners. Similarly, girls who have five or more meals a week with their families are one-third less likely to develop unhealthy eating habits, which can range from skipping meals or abusing diet pills to full-fledged anorexia or bulimia.
What Should We Talk About?
- Ask everyone to share their favorite part or biggest challenge of the day.
- Plan and then let the kids pick tasks for the next day's menu, preparation, and cleanup.
- Exchange memories about your favorite family pastimes.
- Discuss an activity the family can do together and then put it on the calendar.
- Talk with your children about a book they are reading or a movie they have seen. It might turn into a family book club or a regular movie and popcorn night!
- Ask the kids about their classes, homework, teachers, and upcoming assignments. Findout if they would like your help or want to brainstorm on an assignment.
great way for a parent to be involved, discuss rules, monitor activities and friends, and be a good role model. The benefits of eating together will last long after your meal ends, especially if you make family mealtimes a regular activity. Take the family meal off the endangered species list and move it back to the VIP list!