Do family dinners reduce teen substance abuse? Restaurant, prevention groups aim to get message out

Photo by monkeybusinessimages / iStock / Getty Images Plus, St. George News / Cedar City News

CEDAR CITY — Several studies have shown that when kids eat dinner with their family they are less likely to drink alcohol, use illicit drugs and smoke. This is the message the Iron County Prevention Coalition, Parents Empowered and Charlie’s Southern Barbecue are trying to get out through a recent restaurant design campaign and customer appreciation day event Saturday.

Don’t just turn on the TV

According to a study from The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, the magic bullet when it comes to the success of family dinners is the interaction between family members.

Teens who shared dinner with their families were more likely to report an “excellent” relationship with their mother and father, the study said. Teens who reported a “less than very good” relationship with their parents had greater tendencies to engage in high-risk behavior than their peers who reported excellent relationships, including:

  • Approximately 3-4 times more likely to have used marijuana.
  • Approximately 2-2.5 times more likely to have used alcohol.
  • 2.5 times more likely to have used tobacco.

Dr. Anne K. Fishel, co-founder of The Family Dinner Project and a clinical psychologist, teacher, blogger and family therapist, said there are several other benefits to eating together as a family besides reduced substance abuse. Other benefits include:

  • Lower teen pregnancy and depression.
  • Higher grade-point averages, self-esteem and resilience.
  • Lower rates of obesity and eating disorders.

It doesn’t even have to be dinner, Fishel said. If breakfast works better for your family – or perhaps substituting weekend lunches – those count as well. Again, conversation and connection would seem to be the key.

On the FAQ page of The Family Dinner Project, Fishel said that watching television while eating does not have the same mental health benefits, unless it’s a rare occasion or the family is discussing the program they are watching.

Fishel offers several conversation starters, as well as other tips for making family mealtime a success, on The Family Dinner Project website.

Getting the message out locally

While there are many benefits of eating together, it is the effects on reducing underage drinking that is being championed by Charlie’s Southern Barbecue (formerly Sonny Boy’s Barbecue) in Cedar City.

New tabletop design at Charlie’s Southern Barbecue intended to promote family dinner time as a means to prevent underage drinking, Cedar City, Utah, July 28, 2017 | Photo by Paul Dail, St. George News / Cedar City News

In partnership with Parents Empowered and the Iron County Prevention Coalition, Charlie’s recently installed messaging throughout the restaurant about the importance of family dinnertime.

Table messages, window clings, employee T-shirts and more will help remind parents that dinner bonding time is important to keep kids alcohol-free.

These three groups will be debuting this message at Charlie’s Southern Barbecue “Customer Appreciation Day” Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. The event will include free pulled-pork sliders, a bounce house and mechanical bull riding.

About the groups

As a family owned and operated business, Charlie’s Southern Barbecue is a strong supporter of spending time together as a family. With busy schedules, it’s not always easy to prepare dinner at home, and that’s where Charlie’s Southern Barbecue hopes they can help families come together for mealtime.

Charlie’s is proud to support Parents Empowered and the Iron County Prevention Coalition in raising awareness for the positive impact family dinner has on our children,” Heather Allen, owner of Charlie’s Southern Barbecue, said. “A special thank you to these two great organizations for letting us be involved.” is a statewide campaign focused on eliminating underage drinking in Utah. Its primary goals are to educate parents about the dangers of underage drinking and providing them with proven skills to communicate with their children about remaining alcohol-free.

The Iron County Prevention Coalition is made up of approximately 35 people who meet monthly and comprises officials from youth- and family-serving entities ranging from the school district and law enforcement agencies to the Paiute tribe and 4-H.

Event details

  • What: Charlie’s Southern Barbecue “Customer Appreciation Day” to emphasize importance of family dinner time.
  • When: Saturday, July 29, from noon to 4 p.m.
  • Where: Charlie’s Southern Barbecue, 126 N. Main St., Cedar City.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.


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