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Eat Dinner With Children to Reduce Risk of Substance Abuse


With all that you have going on, how often does your family sit down to enjoy dinner together? If you answered at least three times a week, a new survey says that your children will be less likely to use tobacco, alcohol, or illicit drugs.

Eating Meals Together Can Reduce Risky Behaviors

Researchers at Columbia University’s National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) have issued a report called “The Importance of Family Dinners VI” to coincide with the 10th anniversary of “Family Day – A Day to Eat Dinner with Your Children”, celebrated on the fourth Monday in September. Families with teens who eat regularly eat dinner together have a better relationship with their parents, making them less likely to smoke, drink alcohol, or use drugs such as marijuana and cocaine.

Family dinners have also been shown to have a positive influence on academic performance. Those teens who eat with parents five to seven nights a week are more likely to receive A’s and B’s in school.

Read: Parents' Work Conditions Impact Family Food Choices

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Unfortunately, however, only 60% of teens report having dinner with their families at least five times a week. Those who do not have the opportunity to sit down regularly with their parents are twice as likely to use tobacco or alcohol and one-and-a-half times more likely to smoke marijuana or abuse prescription drugs.

Before you think that your teen doesn’t want to spend time with you, read this: the authors of the report have found that 72% of American teens believe that regular family dinners with parents are either very or fairly important. Among those who do not have regular family dinners, 60% would like to do so more often.

CASA encourages families to commit to at least five to seven times a week sitting down to a family dinner for at least 30 minutes. Talk with teens about their friends and interests and listen to what they have to say. The website – www.casafamilyday.org – offers tips on talking with kids about drugs and alcohol and even offers conversation starters for a fun and lively mealtime discussion. The organization also offers printable pages for younger children to keep them engaged.

Read: 15 Ways to Combat Childhood Obesity by Making Fitness a Family Affair

Kathleen Ferrigno, CASA’s director of marketing, says “The message for parents couldn’t be any clearer. With the recent rise in the number of Americans age 12 and older who are using drugs, it is more important than ever to sit down to dinner and engage your children in conversation about their lives, their friends, school – just talk…The magic that happens over family dinners isn’t the food on the table, but the communication and conversations around it.”

CASA researchers have found that if a child can get through his/her first 21 years of life without smoking, abusing alcohol or using illegal drugs, their chances of virtually never doing so are extremely high.