Family Dinner Can Be Good for Your Children

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Knoxville (WVLT) - It will make your children less likely to smoke, drink or use drugs and you could be doing it right now. Monday is "Family Day", a day to eat dinner with your children.

Medical Reporter Jessa Goddard explains the benefits of frequent family dinners.

Family Day emphasizes the importance of regular family activities as a way to strengthen communication and relationships with your children.

According to research, the benefits are apparent in children who eat dinner with their family five to seven times per week, as opposed to zero to two.

Compared to teens who have five to seven family dinners in a typical week, teens who dine with their families fewer than three nights are three times likelier to use marijuana, two and a half times likelier to smoke cigarettes and one and a half times likelier to drink alcohol.

"It's really spending time together. That's what it really boils down to. It may not be the meal and the food itself, but it's the bonding that occurs when they're together," says Anesia McDonald, from the Metropolitan Drug Commission.

Research also shows teens who eat frequent family dinners are less likely than other teens to have sex at young ages, get into fights or be suspended at school and are at lower risk for thoughts of suicide.

"That open line of communication is key for high self-esteem and it correlates with so many other things other than just keeping your children away from drugs and other risky behaviors," says McDonald

Frequent family dinners also correlate with doing well in school and developing healthy eating habits.

Research shows regardless of gender, family structure or social and economic status, frequent family dinners make a difference.

The Metropolitan Drug Commission says the recipe for raising drug-free kids doesn't have to include dinner, any activity in which you're spending quality time counts.

"I think it's always a struggle when we have working parents, single parent homes, we have children who are being pulled left and right with activities in school, so it is a concern for all of us," says McDonald.

Experts say drug problems won't be solved in classrooms or courtrooms, but in living rooms, dining rooms and across the kitchen table.

This day to eat dinner with your children was created in 2001.

Last year, more than 1.3 million Americans pledged to celebrate Family Day.

For family activities or ideas on how to start conversations with your children, check out these websites: