Teen Health 411
Teen Health 411

The Importance Of Family Dinners

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If you could reduce the chances that your child would smoke, drink, use illegal drugs, misuse prescription drugs, and have friends that did those risky things - all in less than an hour a day - would you do it?

Of course you would but the research suggests that less than 60% of families are doing it - and you actually only have to do it five times a week to enjoy the benefits. I am talking about family dinners - at least five times a week - how easy is that?

Start today! Plan to start having dinner together on September 22, 2008 - Family Day - sponsored by Casa to remind parents that what kids really want at the dinner table is you! Your children and teens want to be engaged and need your attention.

According to the Family Day web site there are seven secrets to successful family dinners:
  • Start the pattern of family dinners when children are young
  • Encourage your children to createmenu ideas and participate in meal preparation
  • Turn off the TV and let your answering machine take all calls during dinner
  • Talk about what happened in everyone's day: school, work, extracurricular activities or current events, including headlines from the newspaper (which are frequently including as extra credit on tests in school, I might add)
  • Establish a routine to start and end each meal, light candles, tell a story, say a blessing
  • After dinner play a board game or postpone the clean up to encourage conversation
  • Keep the conversation positive and make sure everyone has a chance to speak
And I want to add another couple suggestions:
  • Mix it up - let the younger ones makes a "rule" for each dinner - no drinking until done with food, only butter knives to eat with, only hands, in the dark with a candle, fresh flowers from the yard, on the front porch, dessert first ...
  • Do not shy away from sensitive or difficult topics - drugs, alcohol, friends, sex
  • Answer every question and listen to what kids are saying - be "present" - nothing is more important than the time you spend with your children
  • If you cannot answer the question, go to a teen health web site you trust and look for the answer together.
  • Make extra, you'll attract other teens, who almost never prefer eating alone!
Most importantly, have fun!

Photo credit: griffhome
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About the Author

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

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