This article was written by Autumn Edmiston for the September Issue of The North Hills Monthly Magazine www.northhillsmonthly.com and stresses the importance of family dinners.

WHAT’S FOR DINNER? Those words always seem to happen around the five to six o’clock dinner hour. Being the mother of two boys, it always amazed me how I could walk in the door, briefcase in hand and have them look at me with those “soulful eyes” and ask, “What’s for dinner – I’m starving”. Never mind that they had already been home for an hour and a half, eaten most of the snacks in the cupboard and somehow managed to also “heat up and eat the leftovers I was planning to have for dinner”.

“One of the simplest and most effective ways for parents to be engaged in their teens’ lives is by having frequent family dinners. America’s drug problem is not going to be solved in courtrooms or legislative hearing rooms by judges and politicians. It will be solved in living rooms and dining rooms and across kitchen tables – by parents and families”, says Joseph Califano Jr., Chairman and President of The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA). “

Family dinners represented the predictability of mealtime and the opportunity to catch up with how the day went. Saying the blessing before eating taught our children how to pray. Our boys were taught how to set the table, proper table manners – the right way to hold a fork, how to eat spaghetti, not to talk with your mouth full and how to listen when others were talking.

A Harvard study found “that children who ate family dinners more frequently had more healthy eating habits” overall, even when not at home. They also typically “consume more vegetables, fruit and juice, and less soda.”

I give John Fedko credit for this one….the good, the bad and the ugly. That phrase was used at our dinner table to give us all a snapshot of how each other’s day went. Although we are a family of four, it was not uncommon to have five, six or seven for dinner allowing my husband and I to “get to know their friends”. When friends were at dinner, they shared their day as well. It allowed us to understand if one of us had a particularly bad day, but the exercise made you think of something good that happened as well. But more importantly it created interaction, conversation and laughter.

As the kids grew older, like many families, we had our crazy times with sports, jobs, and school activities that pulled us in different directions many nights of the week. But, at least once or twice a week, I would tell everyone “we’re eating as a family at 6:00 and you need to be here”. “Recent studies from the CASA found that teens from families who eat dinner together were less likely to use illegal drugs, alcohol and cigarettes, while teenagers who rarely eat dinner with the parents were more likely to engage in these unhealthy activities.”

Now that the boys are grown and living on their own, my husband’s and my dinner time is a bit quieter. We still talk about our days, but look forward to times where we all are home gathered around the table to reconnect. When the boys come home, the refrigerator is full and overflowing, favorite foods to be served are requested, and love and laughter flow from our kitchen.

Because of a grassroots initiative launched by CASA in 2001, elected officials across the country proclaim September 27th as Family Day, a day to eat dinner with your children. What your kids want at the dinner table is YOU. Close your eyes and picture your family dinner….

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