Perhaps by this point you think I'm being too optimistic. But I'm also realistic. I know from talking with parents that many are about ready to throw in the towel. Th ey try and try again but don't feel able to counter the peer pressure and insidious media messages that bombard their kids every day. Many have come to believe that they may be fi ghting a losing battle. Th e struggle is just too diffi cult and exhausting. Well, I get that. But how hard is it to have dinner with your children? Let me share with you an amazing statistic discovered by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University. For the past decade and a half, researchers there have been totting up the diff erences between teens who eat dinner with their parents "frequently" (defi ned as being at least fi ve nights a week) and those who do it only three times weekly or less. Th e results of a CASA report published in 2009 were dramatic:
1. Teens who eat dinner infrequently with their families are twice as likely to use tobacco and marijuana as those who have family dinners "frequently."
2. Similarly, they're one and a half times more likely to use alcohol.
3. And they're one and a half times more likely to get mostly Cs or lower in school. (No one's saying that infrequent family dinners necessarily cause bad grades, but there's clearly some sort of correlation. Try it!)
"The magic of the family dinner comes not from the food on the plate but from who's at the table and what's happening there," explains Elizabeth Planet, CASA's vice president. "The emotional and social benefi ts that come from family dinners are priceless."
That means the food doesn't have to be fancy, or organic, or even homemade. What counts, evidently, is the time spent together around the table. Good grades; avoidance of tobacco, alcohol, and drugs; closer and warmer family relationships - it's a scientific fact (not to mention plain old common sense) that something as simple as sharing take-out pizza is associated with all of them!
Whatever Happened to Dad?
I've been criticized many times for talking so much about "social issues" when the real issue now, according to some people, is the economy. Well, buckle up, Turbo, because here's a simple, inarguable fact: Every broken, fatherless family has a tremendous economic impact. Common sense is clear: Th e more families can do for themselves, the less they will need from the government. But what happens when there's no dad in the picture?
Here's what Robert Rector, a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, has to say about that:
The disappearance of marriage in low-income communities is the predominant cause of child poverty in the U.S. today. If poor single mothers were married to the fathers of their children, two-thirds of them would not be poor...When liberals refuse to talk about marriage and the poor in the same breath, they are guilty of willful neglect of the major source of poverty.
Surprise. Liberals are just fine with that, since one of their goals seems to be getting as many people as possible on public assistance.