There is one old-school tradition that parents shouldn”t let slide: sitting around the dinner table sharing a meal every night. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University recently released the results of their annual survey of teens, aged 12 to 17, and their parents. The study team discovered that teens that have frequent family dinners are less likely to partake in smoking, drinking or using illegal drugs. Teens who have infrequent family dinners (none to two a week) are twice as likely to smoke and drink, 1.5 times more likely to use marijuana, and twice as likely to report having easy access to within an hour.
More than 1,000 teens and 456 of their parents were surveyed online and another 1,000 teens were surveyed by landline telephones. About 60 percent of teens have frequent family dinners (five to seven per week). Frequent family dinners are strongly associated with teens saying that they have good relationships with both their parents, and that their parents are good listeners
Not surprisingly, the most important aspect of family dinners is the interaction between teens and their parents. Three-quarters of teens say that during dinner, they talk to their parents about what is happening in their lives. Teens who have these conversations with their parents say they are less likely to abuse substances because their parents would be upset. Almost three-quarters of teens surveyed think family dinners are important and most, whether they have frequent or infrequent family dinners, would like to have more dinners with their parents.
Notably, teens that have infrequent family dinners have double the chance of receiving poor grades (C’s or below) in school, and are more likely to report smoking and using alcohol or illegal drugs. Furthermore, these teens are more likely to have friends who abuse prescription drugs or illegal drugs. Families who have fewer than three family dinners a week cite reasons such as; being too busy, parents working late shifts, or parents and teens having different activities with conflicting schedules.
However, dinner is not the only time for parents to bond with teens. Other times to take advantage of the time together and chat with your teens are:
- On the weekends
- During drives to and from school and other activities
- During other meals