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By Grace Wilson – May 12, 2020 –

Have you talked with your kids about the dangers of underage drinking? It can certainly be a difficult topic to navigate.

You may ask yourself all sorts of questions: When is the right time to have the conversation? How will it go? Will they think I’m accusing them of drinking alcohol? And here’s the big question: Will they even listen?

The truth is, our kids are hearing us whether they show us active listening skills or not.

Right now many of us are staying home and spending more time with our families during the pandemic. Parents have more opportunities to have a conversation about underage drinking with their kids. 

“Talk. They Hear You.” is an underage drinking prevention campaign developed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).  Approximately 88,000 Americans die from an alcohol-attributed cause each year. This makes alcohol the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States.

The goal of this campaign is to provide parents and caregivers with the resources to discuss the hard topics such as underage drinking and substance misuse. As parents, we play a very significant role in whether or not our children will experiment with drugs and alcohol. If we are equipped with the resources to tackle these tough conversations, we are helping set our children up to be drug and alcohol free.

Even if you have young children, it is never too early to start the conversation around alcohol and other substances. Simple, short conversations, not one that is long and drawn out, can be very helpful in keeping your child engaged and not tuning you out.

Remember, a conversation goes both ways, so make sure to give your child a chance to talk as well. These little talks can happen in the car, while watching TV, or at dinner. You should keep these conversations going as your child moves through the stages of adolescence and adapt the conversation to your child’s age. A conversation at the age of 8 will and should be different than when they are 16. It is also important to clearly state your rules and expectations around alcohol and other substances during these talks.

You can find more information about “Talk. They Hear You.” on the Youth First website at youthfirstinc.org. You will find information about the campaign, tips on having the conversation, different messages and ads about “Talk. They Hear You.”, and a link to the SAMSHA website for even more resources. It is important to take time and research the facts before you start talking with your child about substance use. In doing this, you will be better prepared for any questions they may ask.

Make the most of this time at home with your children and start the conversation about underage drinking.  

samhsa-family-eating-dinner

By Davi Stein-Kiley, Courier & Press, Sept. 27, 2016 –

The beginning of the new school years marks the opportunity to set new goals for your family.

As a counselor, I have often encouraged parents to assess the needs of each young person in the family and help create environments and experiences that will help that child grow throughout that year. I’ve also encouraged parents to take stock of each season and look for new ideas that will build family together time, supporting family harmony.

There is value in reflecting and planning. Unfortunately, these steps often get overtaken by our hijacked family schedules due to heavy involvement in activities. I would encourage you to consider family experiences with fresh eyes.

If there was just one thing you could do to help your kids, would you do it? Truthfully, there is one important lifestyle habit that could be integrated every day to the benefit of everyone in the family, and it is easily within our grasp.

The answer is simple: Have family dinner time at least five times a week. Safeguard the time. Maintain it as a divine appointment.

During the last 22 years, thousands of American teens have been surveyed through the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA Columbia). The results are very compelling and readily overlooked by our manic interest in helping kids get ahead in whatever endeavor they undertake.

But consider these outcomes:Teens who have dinner three times a week or less with their families as compared with peers who have dinner five times or more with their families are:

  • Nearly three times likelier to say it is OK for a teen their age to use marijuana.
  • 3.5 times likelier to say it’s OK for teens their age to get drunk.

Favorable attitudes toward drug and alcohol use are a key risk factor for teens. Family meal time diminishes the risk greatly.

CASA Columbia reports that teens that have family dinners have stronger relationships with their parents and these relationships lead to greater trust. Put simply, teens that have high-quality relationships with mom and dad are less likely to use drugs, drink or smoke.

But what about mental health concerns? The Journal of the American Medical Association reports that young people who engage in family meals have better socialization, and meal time enhances their mental health. As young people experience better relationships, their stress is diminished.

Another study in JAMA reported that students who have regular family mealtimes bounce back better from the impact of cyberbullying.

Young children also build vocabulary and ability to discuss topics when the family meal is present.  Anne Fishel, the co-founder of the Family Dinner Project at Harvard, notes that young children learn as many as 1000 uncommon words at meal time compared to 143 from parents reading story books aloud.

The Journal of Marriage and Family additionally reports that children who spend more time in family meals (and getting adequate sleep) have better results academically.

Family mealtimes have vast importance in the life of our kids. Get started today with some food, fun and conversations that will have lasting impact.

Sept. 26 is National Eat Dinner with your Family Day, and Youth First, Inc. is proud to celebrate this event with our community.

For more information about family dinners see thefamilydinnerproject.org.