Dinner: The Anti-Drug

SPARKS, Nev. - The eleventh annual Family Day: A Day to Eat Dinner with Your children was celebrated in Sparks Monday. Sparks Mayor Geno Martini asked all families living in the city to make time to sit down with their children and eat a family meal.

"Being able to sit down and have a family dinner most nights or every night is just a wonderful time," Mayor Martini said.

The annual day is the brainchild of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.

The goal of the national movement, which began in 2001, is to set aside a regular time when the family can eat dinner. Studies done by CASA Columbia have found that children who eat dinner with their parents at least five times a week are less likely to try or abuse alcohol and drugs.

Children who don't eat family dinners regularly are almost four times more likely to use tobacco, more than twice as likely to use alcohol, two-and-a-half times more likely to use marijuana, and almost four times more likely to say they expect to try drugs in the future.

For the Abbott family in Silver Springs, family dinner is not an option.

"It's just a good opportunity to get together and spend some time and decompress after each day," Matthew Abbott said.

Matthew and his wife Lisa sit down to dinner with their two girls every night of the week, even when it has been a bad day.

"It might be late, or I'm tired and we haven't been able to get dinner together quickly, or I just want to watch T.V., but the girls will say 'No come on, we have to eat dinner together' and that reinforces that we are heading in the right direction," Lisa Abbott said.

Matthew and Lisa also start their dinners by asking each of their daughters what the best and worst parts of their days were and why.

"Instead of waiting for a report card, or waiting for a parent teacher conference, or for something else to happen, it's a way to know on a day to day basis what's going on in their lives," Lisa said.

Of course, with busy lives it's hard to set time aside for dinner. But the Abbotts suggest on days that you know will be hectic, prepare dinner ahead of time. They do all of the prep work in the morning, so they can put dinner together quickly when they get home from work.

Though this may be one day out of the year set aside as National Family Day, Mayor Martini says he hopes family dinners become a habit for everyone.