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Research Shows that Family Dinners Help to Prevent Youth Drug & Alcohol Abuse

By Jose Lima

Family Day is this Monday, Sept. 23

Informed Families (the Florida sponsor of the national Red Ribbon Campaign since 1982, committed to helping parents and educators lead children to grow up safe, healthy and drug-free) announces a new statewide initiative for this year’s “Family Day®: A Day to Eat Dinner With Your Children” celebrated on September 23rd.

“Informed Families/The Florida Family Partnership takes Family Day to a new level this year to help parents and educators,” said President and CEO Peggy Sapp, a nationally renowned expert on prevention and families. “Parental engagement is the single most potent weapon in preventing substance abuse among youth, and Family Day emphasizes parent-child communication through frequent family meals.”

The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University has proven – with more than 10 years of consistent research – that the more children eat dinner together with their families, the less likely they are to smoke, drink or use illicit drugs.

Their research shows that table-time-together yields valuable benefits for families: teens that regularly eat dinner with their families are more likely to get better grades and do better in school, and are less prone to depression, anxiety and emotional problems.

But in today’s hectic world, how realistic is it to ask parents to eat dinner together with their kids at least four times a week? 

Busy work schedules, after-school activities and a myriad of electronic distractions get in the way.

To help parents, Informed Families has created a video game contest called “Family Dinner Dash” to learn how to overcome these obstacles.  Children and parents can register at www.FLfamilyday.com  to play the retro-style challenge, and compete for prizes. The grand-prize winner with the highest score in Florida will win a $250 Publix gift card. Six regional winners throughout the state will each win a $100 Publix gift card.  The entry deadline is September 24 and winners will be announced on Oct. 1 on the website.

Tips for Parents

The Informed Families team of education experts offers these tips for parents to help make dinnertime or any meal you share together a successful and memorable experience:

ethnic family having dinner together

•  Dinner-time should be “electronics free”  no cell phones, computers, electronic games or mobile devices. (Mom & Dad: this also applies to you.) Make a pact and sign a family pledge together.

•  Become a team – turn dinner-time into something everyone in the family looks forward to and participates together in planning. Let kids help with meal preparation and express your appreciation for their help. Assign a table-setter and let her/him choose the dishes, tablecloth and centerpiece. Plan next week’s dinner menu together, as a family.

•  Conversation is the main course – use open-ended questions like “What was the funniest thing you saw today?” or “What was the best thing that happened to you today?” to keep everyone talking.

•  Keep dinner-time positive – avoid discussions about discipline, arguments or broken rules at the dinner table.

•  Always sit together at the table … outside when weather permits … or have “picnics” together on the family room floor.

•  Create a special night to serve something only once per week – like “Sundaes on Sunday” or “New Recipe Night.”

•  Make a “You are special today!” place-setting – recognize family members when they achieve a goal, have done well on a test, won a sports award or made the Honor Roll.

•  Have fun and change things around – serve breakfast for dinner and ask everyone to wear their pajamas.

•  Remember, it’s the time together that counts – don’t worry about making an elaborate meal.

“Family dinners can be a wonderful time of connection, communication, and fun,” adds Peggy Sapp.  “Kids who eat dinner regularly with their parents are less likely to engage in risky and unhealthy behaviors. The statistics don’t lie – dinner makes a difference!”
Editor’s note: For more information about family dinners click here.

Christine Crosby

About the author

Christine is the co-founder and editorial director for GRAND Magazine. She is the grandmother of five and great-grandmom (aka Grandmere) to one. She makes her home in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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