What’s Dinner Got To Do With It?

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Family eating dinner together.

How often does your family sit down to eat a meal together? Every day? A few times a month? Never?

It turns out that teens in families that often enjoy a meal together are more likely to share stories about their days—and stay away from drugs.

While teens may want to keep their social lives secret from parents, yearly surveys by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA Columbia) show that frequent family meals may help kids talk to their parents about what’s happening in their lives.

Perhaps as a result, those teens who eat with their parents anywhere from 5 to 7 times a week say they are less likely to smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, or use drugs than those teens who eat with their families 3 times a week or less.

Highlights from the 2012 report:

  • Teens reporting fewer than 3 family dinners a week are 3 times more likely to say it’s okay for teens their age to use marijuana (14% vs. 5%) and 3.5 times more likely to say it’s okay to get drunk (14% vs. 4%).
  • Teens who eat with their families 5 or more times a week are far less likely to report that they expect to try drugs (including marijuana or prescription drugs without a doctor’s supervision) in the future (8% vs. 17%).

This year’s Family Day, sponsored by CASA Columbia, is September 23, 2013. If you’re already part of a family that dines together regularly, it’s a good day to celebrate. If your family doesn’t eat together so often, why not use the occasion to start a new tradition?

Find more information and some ideas to share with your parents, or “like” Family Day on Facebook.

Do you think it’s important for families to eat meals together? Why or why not? Tell us in comments.

Find Help Near You

Use the SAMHSA Treatment Locator to find substance use or other mental health services in your area. If you are in an emergency situation, this toll-free, 24-hour hotline can help you get through this difficult time: call 1-800-273-TALK, or visit the Suicide Prevention Lifeline. We also have step by step guides on what to do to help yourself, a friend or a family member.

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