Updated: Feb 15
You may not be aware that eating a meal together as a family could change your children's lives.
The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA Columbia) at Columbia University found that teenagers who never sit down for family dinners are four times more likely to use tobacco, twice as likely to drink alcohol and two and a half times as likely to smoke marijuana.
Those are some pretty scary statistics for parents like myself.
I know with today's busy schedules it can be very hard to find time to get everyone around the same table for a meal, but this is one of the most important things you can do for your family.
Family dinners offer you a chance to spend quality time with your children and learn what is going on in their lives. It's a chance to talk about what happened at school, who they are hanging out with and what their goals and dreams are.
Missy and I make it a point to gather our family as much as possible to eat, and I encourage you to do the same. Perhaps you can't make it happen every night. That's ok. Start small.
Choose at least one night a week for to sit down as a family for dinner. Mark it on the family calendar and in your personal planner or cell phone. Explain to your kids that this is a special night reserved for your family and that you all need to make it a priority. This is especially important for teenagers who are prone to schedule time with their friends, but it should be stressed that mom and dad will also be clearing their calendars for this time.
Also, set some ground rules to get rid of distractions. The television and radio need to be turned off. Cell phones, video games, iPods and books should not be allowed. All that is required is everyone's presence.
The meal doesn't have to be fancy or even home cooked. Matter of fact, this dinner really isn't even about the meal; it's about the time spent together.
I think if you begin this tradition, you will find it to be a rich time for connecting on a very deep level. You may discover your kids will begin to open up and share with you like never before. Really, what do you have to lose?