Blog · Jan 09, 2015
As we greet the new year, we tuck away more memories of close family gatherings—memories of the table draped in heirloom lace and the lingering taste of great-grandmother's gingersnaps. During the holiday season, the dinner table is a symbol for tradition and family unity; it is a place of comfort and bonding.
Moving forward, it would prove especially beneficial to let this tradition extend into a year-round routine. According to a study commissioned by CASA Columbia, teens that have frequent dinners with their families are less likely to engage in alcohol, tobacco, or other drug use. The study showed that teens who had weaker relationships with their parents were more than twice as likely to have used alcohol, twice as likely to use tobacco, and three to four times more likely to have used marijuana.
Healthy bonding, support, and high expectations are protective factors for establishing positive norms to prevent substance use and abuse. Family, school, and community environments offer children a space to engage in healthy relationships, and bonding through meaningful participation provides opportunities for children to develop esteem, promoting a sense of self-worth in relation to others.
From the dinner table to the classroom, positive adult role models set and reinforce healthy norms for children. When parents and teachers set a positive example, children will come to expect their parents' and teachers' attitudes and behaviors to be the norm; the opposing negative attitudes and behaviors of negative influences will be seen as an unhealthy exception to the norm.
High expectations from respected adults, combined with a strong support system, reinforce in children a desire to live up to their best selves, giving them the confidence they need to aspire to reaching their goals and relate to others in a healthy way.
It is sometimes difficult to resist being swept away by the fast-paced current of our contemporary culture. The holidays remind us to pause and engage more frequently in meaningful exchanges with children and teens who look to us for direction, for we play a significant role in their unfolding futures.
From all of us at the Mendez Foundation, we wish you a safe and fruitful new year!