The Family Dinner: A powerful weapon to keep teens off drugs

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Can regular family dinners really help keep teens away from drugs?

In our busy lives, it's hard to find time to come together around the family dinner table. But those dinnertime discussions can make all the difference in the world when it comes to how your teen communicates with you, and deals with outside influences like peer pressure and drugs.

"National Family Day" was launched by the Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) to address that issue. CASA is a national movement that informs parents that the engagement fostered during frequent family dinners is an effective tool to help keep kids substance-free.

As children age, it's vital to build trust with them and keep the lines of communication open, so that if at any point they begin to feel pressure to experiment with smoking, drinking and using drugs, they can feel comfortable talking to you about it.

Family dinners offer an opportunity to connect, share and really listen to what’s on their mind. Research shows that parental engagement matters, and that children with hands-on parents are far less likely to smoke, drink or use other drugs.

You can learn more about the importance of the family dinner at an event Tuesday night at Tempe High School. The event is designed for parents and teens alike. Families will enjoy a free dinner provided by Buca di Beppo, then stay for a presentation on the importance of communication and family engagement.

Families will learn about the latest drug trends, risks and behaviors from Community Bridges expert Stephanie Siete. She has been providing drug prevention and education services to Valley residents for more than a decade, focusing on targeted messages to youth, parents, teachers, and administrators.

During Tuesday's event, Siete will also offer strategies and activities you can use to protect your family from drug addiction and devastation.

Each family attending the event will receive a free USB resource bracelet, pre-loaded with a parent tool kit of recipes, conversation starters, facts and family fun ideas. The bracelet plugs right into a computer and provides a Power-Point presentation, drug identification charts and helpful drug abuse websites.

Here are the details of the National Family Day Event:

-Tuesday, September 24, 2013
-Dinner provided by Buca di Beppo beginning at 6:00 p.m.
-Workshop 6:30 to 8:00 p.m.
-Tempe High School Cafeteria
-1730 S. Mill Ave., Tempe, AZ 85281
-Park in the Broadway lot off of Broadway Ave.

The event is free but you must pre-register. You can contact the Parent Community Services Office at (480) 838-3200, extension 40074. You can also register online.