Teen Health 411
Teen Health 411

Dinner Together Makes a Difference

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I know I have said this before, but now there is more research to back it up. A recent report on the results from the "back-to-school" survey (September 2009) done by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University reports a decade of research finding that the more often children have dinner with their parents, the less likely they are to smoke, drink, or use drugs.

Bottom line - compared to teens who have family dinners 5+ times a week, those who do not are twice as likely to use tobacco and marijuana and 1.5 times likelier to use alcohol. They also get significantly better grades and report that it is easier to talk to their parents.

Not only is getting to the dinner table important, it is also important for parents to give their kids their undivided attention - and to get theirs. No talking on the phone or texting at the table. No Gameboys, Walkmans, Ipods, reading or watching or listening to TV, at the table either!

Like the post on the ideal relationship with a parent suggested earlier this week, teens really need to know they are important to parents and for parents to listen to what they have to say. These are probably the two most important things a parent can do to support the emotional and physical health of a teen.

So, are we doing it? Sadly, no - the report suggested that only 59 percent of families are having 5+ dinners together, but that rate is up from 47 percent in 1998 - so there is hope. Sadly, 70% of the families not having dinner together reported that they are too busy with work or other activities to share the evening meal.

I wonder how many parents would actually look their teens in the eye and say, "I am sorry, I know having diner together is the most important thing I could do for your health, but we are just too busy."

Nah, I think making dinner together a priority, and saying "we are going to eat dinner as a family because you are important and we do not have enough time together," might be a lot easier!

Photo credit: ndigoprime
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About the Author

Dr. Brown is a developmental psychologist specializing in adolescent health.

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