The readers’ forum

Family Day: With kids, every moment matters

 

Family Day is a national initiative that promotes simple acts of parental engagement to help prevent substance use and other risky behaviors in children and teens. While it started out in 2001 as a grassroots effort to inform parents about all the benefits of frequent family dinners, it has been expanded to encourage parents to stay connected to their children at various times throughout the day, such as driving children to and from school and activities and tucking them into bed. This is a positive step, as each of these moments offers an opportunity for parents to communicate with their kids and to really listen to what’s on their minds. Connecting with children several times throughout the day also enhances the quality of the time families share around the dinner table.

Whether it is mealtime, bedtime, playtime or downtime, what really matters is taking the time to connect with your children on a regular basis. Studies have shown that when parents make a point to stay connected to their children, children are more likely to develop healthy behaviors and succeed in school and less likely to engage in self-destructive behaviors like smoking, drinking, and using drugs.

Research has also shown that a close bond between parents and their children is a protective factor against child abuse and neglect. DCF Interim Secretary Esther Jacobo recently acknowledged the positive impact of strong family bonds, saying, “Something as simple as sharing a meal can help create a family bond and a sense of belonging for a child who is struggling. In today’s fast-paced world we cannot forget how important these moments with our children are for both children and parents. A strong family unit is powerful prevention.”

On Sept. 23, parents and community leaders alike are encouraged to recognize the important role parental engagement plays in positive child and adolescent development. Parents and caregivers need to set aside time to connect with their children, while business owners and community leaders need to support family-friendly policies that make it easier for parents to succeed at their most important jobs: raising the next generation.

Anita Odom, executive director, Prevent Child Abuse Florida, Tallahassee

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