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Family Dinner, The Anti-Drug

Can gathering family for meals help keep kids off drugs?

Keeping their offspring from the well-beaten path to drug abuse is a goal of most — dare I say — all parents. While there are no easy answers or guarantees, it seems simple family dinners could be a key component in keeping your "Hallie Parker" from becoming a "Lindsay Lohan."

A report by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University suggests teens who don’t chow down with their family on a regular basis are much more likely to use alcohol, marijuana or tobacco, compared to teens who do endure the family dinner.

Teenagers who have less than two family dinners a week were shown to be three times more likely to try marijuana. They were 2½ times more likely to smoke cigarettes and 1½ times more likely to drink alcohol.

Those are a lot of numbers to process if you're stoned, drunk and can't find your smokes. Kathleen Ferrigno, CASA’s director of marketing makes it clear: “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.”

As most of us would guess from being teenagers ourselves, peer influences have been found to be among the strongest predictors of drug use during adolescence. As parents, we can't stop the influence. However, studies have shown strong family relationships, particularly a good relationship with mom, can go far to lessen the influence.

When I think about kids and drugs, in a lot of cases, it is not if they will use them but when, where, and which ones. I think the best we can hope for is that we gave them the strong moral fiber to come out of it on the other end with a sense of their limits. They must learn first-hand, the going up is not worth the coming down.

Kids should know their parents as people, not just as parents who "just don't understand." Spending time with them lets you get to know each other leading to a strong bond.

I think if we know our kids, we will know when they are in trouble. If we know them, we will know if they have chosen the wrong friends and we will know how to talk to them about it. Most importantly, we will know when they are lying.

Ferrigno knows we have yet to discover a sure-fire way to keep our kids off of drugs, but she says “knowledge is power and the more you know, the better the odds are that you will raise a healthy kid.”

It is important to remember that all the knowledge of right and wrong can't outweigh how fun it is to be a drunken teenager who has nothing to do the next day.

Jennifer Davis Staack April 20, 2011 at 05:04 PM
Yes. If they're cool. I'm kidding. Mostly. I know peer influence is important to a certain extent - they let you in on what's out there and how to get it. But I think the main problem (to which you alluded) is that druggin' and boozin' can be pretty fun for a kid. I didn't do every drug my friends were doing. I tried some, and continued to do the ones I liked. And there were a couple of drugs that seemed way too serious, so I just skipped altogether - but I watched my friends do them. I don't think there is any formula to keep your kids from screwing up real bad. But talking to them a lot seems like a good start. So here's my question - do you tell them about your own experiences? And what if some of your experiences were pretty good? Also, except for the super physically addictive drugs, what scares me more than anything is teenagers and booze. And you know they're going to do that. So what we do to make sure they are safe? I was crazy reckless as a kid. But I ate in front of the tv a lot. So there you go.

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