If research suggested that family meals helped teens avoid early sex, drugs, and alcohol abuse, would you eat together? Our parenting expert, Dr. Donahue, shares what research suggests in his book, Messengers in Denim. Let's find out what you can do.
Benefits of the Family Meal
"Too many parents, dads especially, only talk with their teenagers when they're reprimanding them for something they did wrong. Luckily, it's hard for people to be angry when they're eating. John O'Sullivan in his book The President, the Pope, and the Prime Minister quoted Pope John Paul II as having said, "Difficult problems can often be resolved over a meal..."
The Relationship between Family Meals and Drugs, Sex, and Alcohol
When questioning teens, I found that those who ate fewer than five family meals per week were twice as likely to use drugs or alcohol or have sex while still in high school as those who sat down more frequently to eat with their family.
Other factors may have been involved, but a study of 527 kids in Cincinatti showed that those who ate five or more meals per week with their family were better adjusted and less depressed than peers who ate fewer than three family meals a week. Furthermore, the kids who ate family meals did better in school, were less inclined to use drugs, and had better social skills.
Where Drug Abuse Will Be Solved
Joseph A. Califano, Jr., chairman and president of Columbia University's Center on Addiction and substance Abuse, studied the association between family meals and drug abuse and concluded in their September 2007 quarterly report that"...preventing America's drug problem is not going to be accomplished in court rooms, legislative hearing rooms, or classrooms, by judges, politicians, or teachers.
It will happen in living rooms and dining rooms and across kitchen tables by the efforts of parents and families.
Why Family Meals May Be the Solution
Researchers aren't sure what accounts for the difference, but suggest that family meals may help kids learn to deal with the pressures of life and maintain a close relationship with family members. Sharing stories about the day's events and hearing how other family members deal with their stress may be the tools that help prevent adjustment problems."
Dr. Parnell Donahue is an expert who understands teens well. He says he's learned so much from them in his work as a pediatrician. Pick up his book Messengers in Denim: Amazing Things Parents Can Learn from Teens. You'll feel the respect he has for teenagers and why.
What are your opinions about this blog post or your suggestions for creating closeness at family meals? Please answer in the comment link below.
Jean Tracy, MSS
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