A few weeks ago, I heard the following on the radio:
Do you want to know what you can do to reduce the chances that your children will: SMOKE, DO DRUGS, and UNDERAGE DRINK?
YES. I said. YES YES YES!
If there is a prayer I can say or some act I can do to guarantee such a thing, I will do it. I will do anything!
Well, listen here, THIS is what you need to do…..
Eat dinner together as a family at least 5 nights a week.
Um. What? That’s it?
But wait. That’s HARD!
The wonderful folks at CASA at Columbia University have done the research. They’ve done the work for us by asking our teens exactly what it is that helps keep them away from substance abuse. And this is it. Dinner with the family almost every night.
To quote CASA,
Teens who do NOT have frequent family dinners, as compared to those who do:
- Are twice as likely to have used tobacco
- Almost twice as likely to have used alcohol, and
- One and a half times likelier to have used marijuana
So, apparently, no one action or prayer can guarantee anything, but this one thing will help. This 30 minute chunk of my day when I focus completely and solely on developing a relationship with my family will help.
At first I was a little bit relieved. We kind of sort of already eat together as a family the majority of the time. Then I thought about what typically happens during those meals.
Often, the minute Daddy walks in the door, we sit down at the table, so dinner always begins with a prayer and some mommy-daddy catch-up conversation. During which time the boys start pushing food around, quietly humming to themselves. Progressively, their hums become louder until they morph into indescribable noises which render me incapable of rational thought. Finally, the fun dinner that I’m sure CASA had in mind really begins. Please BE Quiet! Eat those vegetables! Take a bite of everything on your plate! And my favorite, a Seinfeld throwback, NO Dessert for YOU!
It’s possible that our current rendition of family dinner doesn’t quite fit the keep your kids off drugs mold.
I decided I needed to practice my dinner-time mommy skills.
Ever since the boys have been capable of feeding themselves, I have relished the peaceful few minutes I like to call Snack Time. I try to prepare foods that take awhile to eat and set those little plates in front of the boys, grabbing a book or a magazine on my way out of the kitchen, only to settle comfortably on the couch for the next 5-10 minutes. Ah, so very peaceful.
Peaceful because the boys are given foods they actually enjoy and peaceful because mommy is unable to comment on their eating…she is in hiding.
Maybe, in honor of the CASA study, I could practice being present-listening Mommy during snack time. So, for the past week, I have been trying to fight the urge to catch up on the latest magazine during their after school snack, instead resolving to sit with them at the table and asking them questions about their day.
The amazing thing is, these boys who usually respond with I don’t know when asked similar questions at dinner time, actually talk to me! The other day, I even heard a story about something that happened in the classroom at school! For those of you with boys who communicate as mine do, you will recognize this as nothing short of miraculous.
The stories I am hearing from their eager minds have sold me. These CASA people are onto something. Now, to move our practice into the dinnertime hour so Daddy can be a part of this ever important time.
Patience, Mommy. You can do it.
Stories are much more important than finishing that final carrot.