Enjoy Dinner with Your Family on "Family Day," Sept. 27

National effort promotes family dinners as simple strategy for strengthening families

University of Hawaiʻi
Ivette Rodriguez Stern, (808) 956-4132
Center on the Family
Kristen Bonilla, (808) 956-5039
External Affairs & University Relations
Posted: Sep 15, 2004

Regular family dinners are a simple yet effective way to strengthen families and reduce drug use and other risky behaviors among children and teens. This encouraging message is the cause behind "Family Day — A Day to Eat Dinner With Your Children," a national effort celebrated this year on Monday, Sept. 27, to promote family dinners among parents and children.

The Hawaiʻi campaign is supported this year by the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa‘s Center on the Family, Hawaiʻi Kids Count, and Zippy‘s, who have collaborated on a brochure available to community agencies, companies, schools and other organizations, which highlights the benefits of and provides tips for family meals.

According to research conducted by the Hawaiʻi Department of Health, approximately one-half of adolescents surveyed in Hawaiʻi report that they feel close to their parents. However, only about one-third of 10th and 12th graders say they have enough opportunities to do fun things together, share their personal problems with their parents, or participate in decisions that affect them. Family meals provide opportunities for all of the above.

"Family Day is a great opportunity to increase awareness amongst families of the significant impact the simple act of having dinner together as a family can have on children," said UH Mānoa Center on the Family Director Sylvia Yuen. "We hope that families across Hawaiʻi will participate in Family Day and enjoy dinner together on Sept. 27, and also adopt this as a regular habit and have dinner together as a family as often as possible."

An annual event launched in 2001 and developed from research conducted by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University, "Family Day" is held on the fourth Monday in September every year. Though the current trends show hectic work schedules and after-school activities contributing to a decline in regular family dinners, CASA‘s research consistently finds that the more often children eat dinner with their families, the less likely they are to smoke, drink or use illegal drugs.

Other benefits gained from sharing family meals are great for both parents and children. Family meals provide an opportunity for children to talk about their day and an avenue for parents to learn more about the challenges their children face. Sharing meals on a regular basis supports parent-child bonding, and provides a sense of routine that is especially comforting to children.

Regardless of income, family structure, or child gender, eating together frequently is associated with doing well in school, developing healthy eating habits, and reducing risk for delinquent behavior and drug use. Also, teens that have dinner often with their families are less stressed and bored—the two top risk factors for substance abuse.

In Hawaiʻi, about seven out of 10 families say that they eat dinner together 5 to 6 times per week. Families are encouraged to make the most of these opportunities to connect with their children by trying some of the following tips:

· During dinner, turn off the TV, computer, and video games. Ignore the telephone.

· Establish a routine to start and end each meal. Light candles, say grace, or tell a story.

· Talk about what happened in everyone‘s day: school, work, friends, or current events.

· Keep the conversation positive and make sure everyone gets a chance to speak.

· Linger after dinner and continue the conversation.

· Although it‘s never too late, start the pattern of family dinners when children are young.

· Celebrate by eating together with all your extended family members.

The "Family Day" brochure provides more information about what families, companies, non-profit organizations and others can do to enjoy the benefits of "Family Day" this year, and beyond. Copies are available at Zippy‘s Restaurants or can be downloaded from the Center on the Family website at www.uhfamily.hawaii.edu.

For more information, visit: http://www.uhfamily.hawaii.edu