SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's first lady, Jeanette Herbert, urged her fellow Utahns to take part in National Family Day Monday by eating dinner with their families.
"It's a time we can spend building relationships, sharing experiences, giving you time to catch up with your children and what's happened in their day's activities," Herbert said. "I encourage parents to try and make it a scheduled time."
Officials with the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, Associated Retail Stores (which includes Dick's Market, Dan's Market, Lin's and Macey's), Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Utah's Parent Teacher Association and ParentsEmpowered.org, joined Herbert at an Olympus Hills Dan's Market in spreading the message of the importance of the family dinner.
Herbert said that while it isn't always easy to find the time to get everyone together for meals, it should be a priority and could even have an impact on children later.
"We know with the day's busy activities and kids being involved in sports and different things it isn't always possible," Herbert said. "But studies show us that kids that eat family dinner regularly — that's five times a week — are 33 percent less likely to get involved with drugs and alcohol."
Dr. Richard Sperry, commission chair of the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, said the family dinner initiative is in line with their "Parents Empowered" campaign, that has already led to decreased alcohol use among minors.
"The success of PatrentsEmpowered.org has been truly remarkable," Sperry said. "Since this message campaign began, underage drinking has decreased across the board at every age level in the state of Utah."
Sperry thanked the local grocers who also worked to get the message out about the importance of parents and spending time together around the dinner table.
Todd Berrett, regional vice president for Dan's and Dick's markets, said they put together value meals that would make it easier for parents to plan and prepare dinners for their family. They also put up reminders about the importance of not drinking until you are of legal age.
"We want to do all that we can to support that effort … to help families be together," Berrett said, noting that it is always possible to make a connection with children. "We don't always get to choose when we'll be the most effective. ... When we're with our children we never quite know what we'll say or do that will cause them to be impressed."
Herbert believes having the family eating together and discussing their lives will help them forge bonds that will lead to greater input later.
"The better relationship you have with your children, the greater the parents' influence will be when it comes time for children to make those safe and healthy choices in their lives," she said.
This was reiterated by Sperry, who said the parents' role in their children's lives could not be understated.
"The message is simple," he said. "Underage drinking is a problem and parents are important. Parents, please today resolve today to have a conversation with your children about the dangers of underage drinking. Help them to have the capacity to say no."