Editorial: Eating together can keep kids off drugs

Parents, we get it. You're busy. You work. You commute. The kids are in school. They're in sports and activities.

But you need to make time to eat dinner together. This most traditional of activities, according to dependency experts, can help stave off underage drinking and drug abuse.

We know finding time to break bread together is hard. Being in the unpredictable world of around-the-clock news, we can honestly say that we struggle to park our butts at the dinner table with the people we love every night. But we should do it because research shows that children who eat with their parents are less likely to take drugs, drink or smoke cigarettes.

In light of this, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence-Orange County/Community Alliance Network is encouraging all families to eat dinner together as many nights as possible and on Sunday in particular. They're calling the decade-old event A Day to Eat Dinner with Your Children.

Dinner is just a good time to check in with your kids, to show them that you love and care about them, and to find out what's going on in their lives. Paying attention to them during meals could at least delay that first cigarette, joint or beer until adulthood.

And dinner time will mean even more if families turn off the TVs, cell phones, tablets and other devices that keep us from focusing on one another. In short, make your kids the center of attention, at least around the table.

The evidence looks sound.

"Compared to teens [who] eat five or more family dinners per week with their families, those who have fewer than three family dinners per week are almost twice as likely to have used alcohol," according to a the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse report. "Consequently, the more often kids eat dinner with their families, the less likely they are to drink or use drugs."

This sounds like a no-brainer, but it's all too easy to ignore good advice when devices keep us tethered to our jobs. Plenty of us are working night shifts, swing shifts and second jobs in hopes of surviving dark economic times. Survival, we understand, comes first but finding away to eat with your children — or grandchildren — as much as possible is a good goal.

Do it Sunday for symbolic reasons and then as much as possible.

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