30 Days of Family: April 2020

Dinner Makes a Difference!

When children have dinner with their families five to seven times a week, they are 33% less likely to use alcohol or drugs. Families that eat together have…

  • More nutritious diets
  • Teens who are less likely to be involved in risky behavior
  • Children with better language skills and academic scores
  • A lower obesity rate
  • Children who enjoy a variety of foods
  • Better relationships with each other and their community


Joyce Sixsmith, MA, LADC - President of Ram Council Foundation, IncOur world is having a moment.

A moment that corresponds with New Canaan Youth Services’ “30 Days of Family” campaign — both a timely and beautiful reminder of what truly matters. Though the COVID-19 crisis has us in quarantine, we can pivot and make the most of this newfound family time.

I’ve been a counselor for 36 years, specializing in adolescents and their families. Young people need their parents as positive role models, wise guides and encouraging coaches throughout their lives. When parents are present to their children on a consistent basis (allowing for ample independence) and draw appropriate boundaries, they thrive. In fact, history tells us, teenagers can gain confidence and successfully launched into adulthood.

Shelter at home presents the opportunity to not only reconnect with loved ones, but for parents to assess their offspring’s wellbeing. It’s helpful for parents to check in on kids to accurately gauge their emotional, mental, and physical health during this uncertain time. This information can better equip parents to partner with their children, better support them in quarantine, and assist with the transition to our collective new normal thereafter. When working as a “QuaranTEAM,” we can both relish and appreciate this gift of time with our families.

Below is are a dozen suggested questions/observations for parents:

  1. How is my child doing with self-care? What can I do to positively motivate them to keep up it daily?
  2. Does my child make good nutritional choices and partake in exercise? What can I do to nurture healthy eating and model or encourage movement?
  3. Is my child mastering age appropriate life skills? How might I encourage them and/or use this time to add to or hone their skill set?
  4. What does my child’s “space” or bedroom look like? Is it working for them in regard to distance learning? Can we carve out time to reorganize it together.
  5. How is my child’s wardrobe? What can be deleted/given away and what might need to be added to it to make them feel good about themselves?
  6. How is my child doing emotionally, especially during this pandemic? How can I validate their feelings, reassure them, or seek outside counseling if need be? Do I need outside counseling in order to strengthen my parenting practices so that I can me more present?
  7. How can I use this time to compliment my child, especially my tweens/teens on how will they’re doing with healthy study habits, volunteer commitments, faith community involvement or about an act of kindness they have done?
  8. Can I suggest safe, outdoor activities for a change of environment, fresh air, and family bonding?
  9. How might I use this time to talk through something my child and I might have disagreed about or something with which they have struggled?
  10. How can I get to know my child better and take an interest in their goals and passions to strengthen our communication?
  11. How can we make positive memories as a family during this time that we can look back on fondly?
  12. Can we initiate an outreach effort as a family to alleviate feelings of helplessness and a loss of control?
    Thoughts to hopefully inspire positive connections to celebrate your family time.

Joyce Sixsmith, MA, LADC
Joyce Sixsmith, President of Ram Council Foundation Inc.(New Canaan teens for Substance Free Living/Healthy Decision Making), Counselor/Prevention Specialist.


Town of New Canaan Family Services

New Canaan Cares

Grace Community Church

New Canaan Library

New Canaan YMCA

Kids in Crisis

New Canaan Mounted Troop

New Canaan Nature Center

Grace Farms Foundation

New Canaan Coalition for Youth & Families

Behavioral Health Action Organization The Hub

New Canaan Recreation

New Canaan Parent Support Group

St. Mark’s Episcopal Church Youth Community


Child Guidance Center of Southern Connecticut, Inc.

New Canaan Community Foundation

St. Aloysius Roman Catholic Church

The Congregational Church of New Canaan

Ram Council

Silver Hill Hospital


Young Women’s League of New Canaan

Drug Free New Canaan

Additional Resources