Kim and I are empty-nesters. We are enjoying the freedom to eat out or cook each other’s favorite dish while savoring memories of mealtimes with our girls.
Research shows that eating dinner together as a family at least three times a week drastically reduces the chances that your kids will succumb to harmful or addictive behaviors such as drinking, smoking, or doing drugs.
Sadly, the UNODC reports that nearly 200 million people are using illicit drugs such as cocaine, cannabis, hallucinogens, opiates and sedative hypnotics worldwide. In December 1987 the UN General Assembly decided that the problem was so rampant, that they instituted June 26 as the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking in hopes of raising awareness and fighting the problem.
Our Spiritual State of the World’s Children research shows that globally, 11% of teens admit to using some type of illegal drug in the past 3 months, the greatest of which reside in Hispanic and European countries. I’ve traveled the world, and trust me, no country is immune to the burgeoning drug trade and the havoc it wreaks on its addicts and the society that lives among them.
According to our research, there is a direct link between a teen’s relationship with their parents and their drug usage. For instance, compared to teens who say they have an excellent relationship with Dad, teens that have a less than very good relationship with their father are:
• Almost four times likelier to have used marijuana.
• Twice as likely to have used alcohol.
• Two and a half times as likely to have used tobacco.
And compared to teens who say they have an excellent relationship with Mom, teens that have a less than very good relationship with their mother are:
• Almost three times likelier to have used marijuana.
• Two and a half times as likely to have used alcohol.
• Two and a half times likelier to have used tobacco.
Did you have any idea that simply eating dinner–or any other meal–together as a family at least three times a week can be the best anti-drug campaign ever launched? Studies show that one of the greatest combatants of drug usage in adolescents is a quality relationship between parents and their teens. Making family mealtime and keeping the lines of communication open a priority in your home sends the message that you care about knowing what’s going on in your tween or teen’s life and gives you a comfortable atmosphere for staging important conversations.
Parents who actively and regularly engage with their children have the advantage of knowing what is going on in their lives and are the best anti-drug strategy not just in January when you make a resolution to spend more time together as a family, but every single day of the year.
According to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, children who make it to age 21 without using illegal drugs, abusing alcohol or smoking are virtually certain never to do so. Their studies conclude that parents have the greatest influence on whether their teens will choose not to use.
As you move forward, build these family meal times into your regularly scheduled programming. Something as simple as saying “yes” to dinner could be pivotal to helping your kids say “no” to drugs.
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