Monday, September 27th, marks the 21st anniversary of Family Day: Making Every Day Special, founded in 2001 by the Center on Addiction. Research by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University has consistently found that the more often children eat dinner with their families, the less likely they are to smoke, drink, or use other drugs. Conversations during mealtime are a way for parents to stay connected and involved with their children. Including youth in meal prep and clean-up instills a sense of responsibility and they are likely to feel like part of a team. In addition to family bonding, kids who eat with their families are more likely to learn healthy eating habits, eat smaller portions, do better in school, and are less likely to stress about food. Depending on weather, a picnic with board games would be a fun way to enjoy nature and appreciate each other’s company.
Televisions, cell phones, and other mobile devices should be turned off during dinner so each person can share the day’s events without distractions. Trips in the vehicle can also be used as teachable, quality bonding time, as parents have a “captive” audience. The earlier parents start connecting with their kids, the better. If kids aren’t used to talking to their parents about what’s going on in their lives when they are eight or ten, it will be more difficult to get them talking when they are older.
Teens are at greater risk of substance abuse as they move from middle school to high school, so, parents need to be especially attentive during this transition period.
If parents are unsure of how to start an age-appropriate conversation, they can access tips in the Parent Toolkit on the CASA Family Day website. Other valuable information can also be found in the toolkit, such as “connecting” with kids, preventing substance use, background facts on substance use, family activities and worksheets, and tips for talking to kids about substance use. To follow Family Day like their Partnership to End Addiction Facebook page, partnershiptoendaddiction on Instagram or @ToEndAddiction on Twitter. Family photos can be shared on social media using #NationalFamilyDay and #MyFamilySelfie.
This year’s sponsors are Quest Diagnostics, American Express, and ACOSTA. Partners include CADCA (Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America), Faith and Fabric, Fathers Incorporated, MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), National Military Family Association, Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, Prevent Child Abuse America, SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions), Super Healthy Kids, The Family Dinner Project, and The Moyer Foundation.
Celebrate with parents nationwide and pledge to commit to:
- Spend time with your kids by playing games, taking a walk, or enjoying another family activity.
- Talk to them about their friends, interests, and the dangers of using substances.
- Answer their questions and listen to what they say.
- Recognize that parents have the power to keep their kids substance-free! A warm, supportive relationship between parents and their children is linked to better judgement, increased self-control, and resilience, which are strengths that help reduce the risk of future drug use.
Remember, parental engagement does make a difference, and prevention works!