Sitting together at the family dinner table may seem a little less common with the busy lives people lead these days. However, a family meal helps cultivate an environment where parents can have a conversation with their children. And that family interaction is an important factor to protect children from the dangers of smoking, drinking and drugs.

Parental influence is known to be one of the most crucial factors in determining the likelihood of substance abuse by teenagers. Research done by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University consistently finds that the more often children eat dinner with their families, the less likely they are to smoke, drink or use drugs. The statistics reveal that teens who virtually never eat dinner with their families are 72 percent more likely than the average teenager to use illegal drugs, alcohol and cigarettes, while teens who almost always eat dinner with their families are 31 percent less likely than the average teenager to smoke, drink or use drugs.

Kids like to eat dinner with their families, too. When a recent survey asked teens about family meals, 84 percent said they prefer to have dinner with their families than to eat alone.

Additionally, research shows that children who eat dinner often with their families are more likely to be emotionally content, do well in school, have positive peer relationships, have lower levels of stress and be bored less often. What amazing benefits from something as simple as a family meal.

Kansas State Research and Extension along with the Kansas Family Partnership and Regional Prevention Centers across the state have teamed up to promote Family Day on the fourth Monday of September, making this year's celebration Sept. 28. The goal is to help educate families and create awareness that regular conversations between parents and children serve as a prevention tool to help safeguard Kansas youth. Family Day a day to eat dinner with your children is a nationwide initiative to show that parental engagement is the single most potent weapon in preventing substance use and abuse among teens.

Family Day is not just for families. The sponsors encourage businesses, faith communities, law enforcement, schools and community groups to promote Family Day activities and celebrate Family Day not just once a year, but every day.

Information regarding Family Day is available online at www.kansasfamily.com, where there are downloadable materials or ideas on how you can celebrate Family Day. You also may contact Kansas Family Partnership at (800) 206-7231.

As Sept. 28 approaches, think of ways you can schedule more family time to talk about what's going on in your child's world. After all, what your kids really want at the dinner table is you!

Get more hints from Linda Beech on her blog, Living Well, at SWKTalk.com/livingwell.