Friday, June 5, 2009

From the Soapbox

This subject is stretching the theme of this blog a little, but the soapbox subject to which I am devoting my 1 day a week of fame as an author is the encouragement to eat as a family.

My mom was (and still is) an extremely devoted mother of seven and my dad is a farmer/rancher who started his days at 5:00 AM and ended them after sunset. However busy they were, dinner was a sacred time, never missed, when all nine of us met to eat and to talk.

This is the place where we talked about our lives, our successes, our questions, our beliefs and our failures. This is where we formed our opinions and learned to debate. This was the training ground where we learned to meet head on any challenges from peers, to question dogma thrown at us by teachers, and roll with teasing from siblings. This was a safe place where we could feel bold in expressing our opinions, secure in asking questions, and were not scarred by sarcasm and ridicule.

Hardly ever did we end a meal by immediately clearing the table. We pushed back our chairs and continued to talk.

There is not space here to extol the value of the practice of family dinners. Suffice it to say that it was probably the best bonding time we spent together, a place where our parents had more influence than they ever dreamed.

If this non-empirical evidence and my personal conviction of the importance of family dinners leaves you with any questions, you can find a lot of research in out there in support of family dinners. Here’s an interesting fact that I will leave you as I step off of my soapbox and away from the spotlight of my day of literary fame:

A child who gets through age 21 without smoking, abusing alcohol or using illegal drugs is virtually certain never to do so. And no one has more power to prevent kids from using substances than parents. There are no silver bullets; unfortunately, the tragedy of a child’s substance abuse can strike any family. But one factor that does more to reduce teens’ substance abuse risk than almost any other is parental engagement, and one of the simplest and most effective ways for parents to be engaged in teens’ lives is by having frequent family dinners.

Frequent family dining is associated with lower rates of teen smoking, drinking, illegal drug use and prescription drug abuse. Compared to teens who eat dinner frequently with their families (five or more family dinners per week), those who have infrequent family dinners (fewer than three per week) are:
three and a half times likelier to have abused prescription drugs, three and a half times likelier to have used an illegal drug other than marijuana or prescription drugs, three times likelier to have used marijuana, more than two and a half times likelier to have used tobacco, and one and a half times likelier to have used alcohol.


Mommy #1

I LOVE this! It's so true! I was listening to a couple talk about their family of 10 a few months ago. They made the comment that a teen's #1 social group is his/her peers because PARENTS THROW THEM INTO THAT GROUP by not creating enough family time and filling their childrens' schedules with so many activities that the only people they TALK TO every day are their PEERS. Dinner time is a GREAT time to catch up, laugh, tease each other, have water fights (we did that ALL the time -- not planned, but when voices started to rise, water started to fly! :-P), and whatever else.
And if a mom and dad have healthy eating practices, dinner is going to teach ids those practices without there ever having to be a "conversation" or "teaching moment" about healthy eating.

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