It could be mac and cheese whipped up from the box or spaghetti and meatballs made from Grandma’s “secret” recipe.
It really doesn’t matter what’s on the menu, the Oregon Community & Family Coalition says, as it urges local families to celebrate Family Day with a dinner together Sept. 22.
The event is being sponsored nationally by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University.
Their studies show that the family dinner is more than just sharing food. More than a decade of research conducted by the center has consistently found that the more often kids eat dinner with their families, the less likely they are to smoke, drink or use drugs.
And while there are no silver bullets – statistics show that substance abuse can strike any family regardless of ethnicity, affluence, age or gender – the parental engagement fostered at the dinner table can be a simple, effective tool to help prevent substance abuse in kids, the center notes.
There are other benefits as well. Research shows that kids who have frequent family dinners are physically and emotionally healthier, less likely to have friends who abuse illicit or prescription drugs and likelier to get better grades.
“Family Day fits right in with our mission, to reduce substance abuse among youths, to promote positive choices and to strengthen families,” said Tana M. Schiewer, executive director of the OCFC.
On Sept. 22 and beyond, CASA encourages parents to pledge to become STARs by
S- Spending time with kids by having dinner together.
T- Talking to them about their friends, interests and the dangers of drugs and alcohol.
A- Answering their questions and listen to what they say.
R- Recognizing that they have the power to help keep their kids substance-free.
Parents are encouraged to visit www.casafamilyday.org to download a Family Dinner Kit containing more information and for ideas for observing Family Day.
At the site, parents can print out a place mat, look at a menu planner and even check out a recipe for taco casserole.
There are also ideas for “conversation starters” designed to engage kids and get everyone talking. Get things rolling with questions such as:
Which TV family is most like your own?
What qualities do you look for in a friend?
What is your favorite smell in the whole world?
What are your best and worst personality traits?
What do you think is the greatest invention of all time?
Using one word, how would you describe your family?
What special talent do you wish you possessed?
For more great conversation starter questions, visit TheBoxGirls.com. A portion from the sale of The Box Girls’ Family Dinner Box of Questions will go to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.
For more information about the OCFC, visit www.ocfcohio.org.