Kevin Fischer is a veteran broadcaster, the recipient of over 150 major journalism awards from the Milwaukee Press Club, the Wisconsin Associated Press, the Northwest Broadcast News Association, the Wisconsin Bar Association, and others. He has been seen and heard on Milwaukee TV and radio stations for over three decades. A longtime aide to state Senate Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature, Kevin can be seen offering his views on the news on the public affairs program, "InterCHANGE," on Milwaukee Public Television Channel 10, and heard filling in on Newstalk 1130 WISN. He lives with his wife, Jennifer, and their lovely young daughter, Kyla Audrey, in Franklin.
Today, a rarity will take place in homes all across America.
Families will gather, and sit down, and dine, as a group, together, all at the very same time.
That doesn’t happen very often in a country inhabited by residents constantly on the go.
Today’s holiday is conducive for a family get-together. Thanksgiving is more relaxed than Christmas. There’s less jumping around, no ripping open boxes, not as much excitement.
A perfect setting for a nice, family sit-down. A 2006 study by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University titled: The Importance of Family Dinners III, notes the importance of family mealtimes in developing and maintaining a healthy family.
This is timely and important reading on this Thanksgiving Day, the opening statement for the study made by CASA Chairman and President, Joseph A. Califano, Jr.
Accompanying Statement by Joseph A. Califano, Jr., Chairman and President
"For 11 years, CASA has been conducting a back to school survey of the attitudes of teens and those, like parents, who most influence them. While other surveys seek to measure the extent of substance abuse in the population, the CASA back to school survey probes substance abuse risk and identifies factors that increase or diminish the likelihood that teens will smoke, drink or use illegal drugs. We believe that parents, armed with this knowledge, can help their teens grow up drug free.
This nation’s drug problem is all about kids. A child who gets through age 21 without smoking, abusing alcohol or using illegal drugs is virtually certain never to do so. And no one has more power to prevent kids from using substances than parents. There are no silver bullets; unfortunately, the tragedy of a child’s substance abuse can strike any family. But one factor that does more to reduce teens’ substance abuse risk than almost any other is parental engagement, and one of the simplest and most effective ways for parents to be engaged in teens’ lives is by having frequent family dinners.
This year’s survey findings underscore the significance of family dinners as a surrogate for parental engagement. Parents who sit down to dinner five or more times a week with their children are parents who are very involved in their kids’ lives. In this day and age, with the high incidence of two-income families and single-parent households, and the increasing demands on kids’ time from school and other activities, it is not an easy task to get the whole family together at the dinner table. Those families that make family togetherness a priority are achieving a level of involvement in their children’s lives that has a healthy impact on their kids. The parents who make dinners a priority are also, as this year’s survey findings demonstrate, likelier to say they take responsibility for preventing their kids from abusing substances.
Family Dinners and Parental Involvement in Kids’ Lives
Compared to parents who report having frequent family dinners (five or more per week), parents who say they have infrequent family dinners (fewer than three per week) are:
• five times likelier to say they have a fair or poor relationship with their teen;
• one and a half times likelier to say they know the parents of their teen’s friends not very well or not at all;
• more than twice as likely to say they do not know the names of their teen’s teachers; and
• twice as likely to say that parents deserve not very much blame or no blame at all when a teenager uses illegal drugs.
More than a decade of surveying teens has taught us that parents can significantly reduce their childrens’ risk of using substances by knowing their teen’s friends and the parents of their friends, being engaged at their kid’s school, and chaperoning their teen’s parties, among other things. The remarkable thing about family dinners is that those parents who make it a habit to have frequent dinners with their children are also the parents who are taking these actions that have a major impact on teen substance abuse risk.
Family Dinners and Teen Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use
CASA research has consistently shown that the more often teens have dinner with their families, the less likely they are to smoke, drink or use drugs. This report, The Importance of Family Dinners III, which draws from the results of CASA’s 11th annual back to school survey, finds that, compared to teens who have five or more family dinners per week, teens who have two or less are:
• more than twice as likely to have tried cigarettes;
• one and a half times likelier to have tried alcohol; and
• twice as likely to have tried marijuana.
This year we also examined the relationship between family dinners and rates of current smoking and drinking among teens. Compared to teens who have frequent family dinners, those who have infrequent family dinners are:
• twice as likely to say they smoke at least one cigarette a day; and
• more than twice as likely to say they get drunk at least once a month.
Frequency of Family Dinners
This year, 58 percent of teens report having dinner with their family at least five times a week, the same proportion as we have observed over the past several years. Among families that have infrequent family dinners, parents and teens do not always agree on the reasons why dinners are not more frequent:
• The reason most commonly given by teens for why family dinners are not more frequent is because parents work late.
• The reason most commonly given by parents is “conflicting schedules.” More than one in five parents and teens say they are “too busy” to have dinner together more often. Given the importance of frequent family dinners and the powerful impact parental engagement has in preventing teen substance abuse, families should identify and work to overcome the barriers to frequent family dining. Late work hours, after-school activities and long commutes all come at the expense of valuable family time.
This survey and our prior studies on the subject show a number of important benefits of frequent family dining. For instance, kids who have frequent family dinners are half as likely to smoke cigarettes and marijuana, and one-third less likely to drink alcohol. Teens who dine frequently with their parents are likelier to have parents who take responsibility for teen drug use, and they are 40 percent likelier to say future drug use will never happen.
If I could wave a magic wand to make a dent in the substance abuse problem, I would make sure that every child in America had dinner with his or her parents at least five times a week. There is no more important thing a parent can do. Parental engagement in children’s lives is key to ridding our nation of the scourge of substance abuse."
Bon appetit, America!
You don't have to call the Butterball Hotline.
Have a disaster-free holiday!
There is no perfect holiday. Everyone has a story about a situation, whether it be family-related, the loss of a job, or the death of a loved one that can make the holidays less merry.
This year, I lost a cousin to brain cancer. Last week, a former colleague of mine at the state Capitol died of brain cancer. He left a wife and two sons. He was 38.
This week, one of my wife’s co-workers arrived home to find her husband dead from a heart attack on their garage floor. And a good friend’s daughter-in-law, whom I have blogged about, Angie, continues to fight cancer. She’s endured a double mastectomy and now is battling brain and spinal problems.
There is no good time for all of this. But now is the worst.The obvious question is why? I don’t claim to know the answer. I suppose there is magic in the phrase, “Count your blessings.”
Another question is how, how do you cope, especially at this time of year with the loss of someone dear and special. The ever-accessible Internet just might be of some help.
My wife, Jennifer and I will have the Macy's Parade on TV Thanksgiving morning. The floats and balloons are still interesting. At the risk of a fogey alert, the contemporary music acts are pretty bad.
We do like the Broadway skits. Watch Thursday for the cast from White Christmas.
WOKY will spend the entire day playing all the great classic Thanksgiving songs.
Well, they would, if they could.
THERE AREN’T ANY!
I do like this comedy bit, though, from political satirist Stan Freberg, whose best work was in the early 60’s. Freberg wrote and sang this gem that would cause heart attacks today.