Taking a pledge to be together as a family

Jenny-Byxbee-greenwich-voicesBy the time this gets published I hope to be on the beach with my family, enjoying an ice tea while my children are politely sharing sand toys, eating healthy organic snacks, and my husband and I catching up on the long reading lists we’ve been meaning to get to.

That’s how it will be. Civilized and peaceful. The perfect family summer vacation.

Now who wants to predict the chances this will actually happen?

More realistically, my children will be squabbling over sand toys and eating hot dogs from the snack bar because we forget the cooler with the healthy snacks. As for reading? Who will have time for that when my husband and are I taking turns standing in line at the bathroom with our  three-year-old. It’ll be chaotic and not exactly the quality time we imagined it would be.

What my husband and I take away in the memories of our family vacations are the odd little things. The funny conversations our children engage in, our shock about how much our six-year-old knows about Justin Bieber and even the little things that make them uniquely who they are that we typically don’t get to observe as much thanks to the hustle and bustle a school year brings.

We tend to take a big breath in August and not only soak up the sun but make the most of time that we have with our children, giving fuller attention to them than is possible when we are all back at our individual grinds. It’s almost as if this high quality time will sustain us in September with the busy weeks to come. But the reality is, we need to make time consistently for our children, both in the chaotic moments and peaceful ones, to listen, be there, and be present.

My dad taught me that you always learn more by listening than by speaking. With my children, I have found this very much to be the case. More often than not they want and are willing to share their thoughts and feelings. It’s our responsibility to be really listening.

That brings me to an event I hope readers will embrace.

The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University has consistently found that the more often children have dinner with their families, the less likely they are to smoke, drink or use drugs. Its data is based on more than a decade of research and families are trying to put it to good use.

There is actually a national movement to encourage parents to eat dinner frequently with their kids and be involved in their lives more generally.  Family Day will be celebrated nationwide this year on Monday, Sept. 23.  It’s a fun tradition in our family as we enjoy our dinner together and my husband and I take the STAR Pledge:

“Spend time with my kids,

“Talk to them about their friends, interests and the dangers of drugs and alcohol,

“Answer their questions and listen to what they say,

“Recognize that I have the power to help keep my kids substance-free!”

You can find this pledge online at CASAFamilyDay.org. It’s not so much about the dinner itself, but we make the pledge as the school year kicks off to make time to be together, to listen and be present for each other.

There is lots of information and resources online about Family Dinner Day if you’d like to participate. You may also download a free Family Dinner Kit from CASAFamilyDay.org that has a tool kit with games that kids can play, placemats kids can color, stimulating conversation starter questions to use during dinner and recipes that families can enjoy.

Please consider taking the pledge with us, and if you do, post your family dinner pictures on Facebook and share.

 

Jenny Byxbee is the Greenwich youth services coordinator. She may be reached at 203-869-2221 or [email protected]

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