Via Maureen Dalbec, Vice President of Research and Data Analysis at The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility

I grew up eating dinner as a family so when I had my own family, such dinners just naturally occurred.  As a working parent, I loved spending this time with my two children and husband, learning about one another’s day, talking, sharing information, and even playing games.  It was not until about a month ago that I realized exactly how cherished and important these dinners were to me.   The day after we dropped off our oldest child at college I instinctively set the dinner table for four only to realize that I had set one too many places.  It was an emotional moment for many reasons, but mostly because we would no longer have this casual and relaxing format to not just to eat, but to speak openly and candidly about anything and everything, important and trivial things.

Research from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University has been promoting the importance of family dinners for years.  The research has shown that youth who eat dinner frequently with their family are more likely to not smoke, drink alcohol, or use other drugs.  CASA’s most recent survey The National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse XVII revealed alarming statistics about what teens report is happening at their high schools – 6 out of 10 report drugs are used, kept, or sold at their schools and nearly 9 out of 10 students report they have classmates who are smoking, drinking, or using drugs during the school day.

Whether sharing a silly joke, the high and low points of your day, or discussing more serious topics such as drinking, smoking, drugs, or bullying it is important to talk with and listen to your children.  Family dinners are an effective tool to start those conversations and know what is happening with your son and/or daughter and to help keep them substance free.    

My husband, son, and I miss my daughter’s presence at the dinner table each night.  Yet, we know she has a solid foundation as she approaches the next chapter in her life, confident she has the tools and knowledge she needs to make good decisions, and most especially the support of her family.

I encourage all families, big and small to celebrate Family Day – A Day to Eat Dinner With Your Children on Monday, September 24, 2012 – don’t just share a good meal together but celebrate the time together and enjoy the conversation of one another.  Go ahead and sneak in some important information about saying no to underage drinking and yes to a healthy lifestyle, you won’t ever regret having this conversation.