How Dads Affect Teen Drug Statistics
By Randell Turner, Ph.D.
Prison Fellowship - A recent study by Columbia University
revealed that teenagers who have poor relationships with their fathers
are 68 percent more likely to use drugs.
It also showed that 71 percent of teenagers said they had a very
good relationship with their mothers, while only 58 percent said
they had a very good relationship with their fathers. Additionally,
more than twice as many teenagers found it easier to talk to mom
rather than to dad about drugs.
After the release of this report, USA Today wrote, “Okay
dads, listen up. The key to winning the war on drugs rests not
with police or laws, but with you!”
If there is this strong of a connection between fathers, kids,
and the rise in substance abuse by teens, what can men do to get
back into their vital fatherhood role?
Remember, the key word in the study was relationships.
Unfortunately, many men struggle to develop healthy relationships
often because their own fathers (if they were ever around) never
modeled good dad behavior. Many men have believed the myth that
showing emotions isn’t cool. For inmates, emotions equal
weakness and a possible invitation to a predator.
But all fathers must recognize that to keep children safe from
drug addiction, they must take some risks to nurture those relationships,
before their kids become statistics.
Children come ready for relationships. They crave attention,
love, and affection. What many fathers fail to realize is that
this need doesn’t change as the child grows older. The only
difference is the way a father expresses that attention, love,
and affection. Teenagers act as if they don’t want or need
their father’s attention. But that’s why it’s
called acting. Fathers need to remember that although your teenagers
may look like adults, they still lack the wisdom that comes from
experienced fathers. They don’t always know what is best
for them. But they won’t accept your guidance if there is
A 17-year-old boy wrote, “Sometimes I feel so alone, like
no one cares. My folks live in their own world and I live in mine.
I know it sounds crazy, but I want them to leave me alone and
yet I want to be part of their lives. Most of the time they do
leave me alone and it gets pretty lonely.”
That letter illustrates the difficulty a teenager has in learning
what it means to be an adult. He wants his parents to leave him
alone, yet wants to be a part of their lives. Your children face
the same feelings that you did at their age. Without a father
who loves and accepts them unconditionally, whom do they turn
to for guidance? Other teenagers and anyone else who will give
them the attention they crave.
Fathers everywhere should learn what it takes to develop and
maintain a close relationship with their children. Below are some
ways to begin.
Involved fathers tend to go out of their way to interact with
their children. They give up some of their own activities that
are important to them in order to give more time to their children.
Show you accept them
A father’s acceptance helps his children believe that dad
will love them no matter what. It teaches them that they are loved
for who they are rather than for what they do. When teenagers
feel accepted by their fathers, they are more likely to share
sensitive issues with them.
Shower your kids with affection
Express affections in different ways: loving words, small surprise
gifts, appropriate touches that communicate volumes to a child
(includes dads wrestling with boys). When a father shows affection
to his child, he tells them they are worth loving.
That way children know what to expect and what they can count
Upon release, be available
Availability tells your children they are important. When fathers
are not available it tells the child, “I love you, but other
things still come ahead of you.”
Remember, it’s never too late! There are a lot of bridges
that may need to be repaired, but if a father will remain committed
and consistent, both father and child will be better for it in
Randell Turner is the vice-president of the National Fatherhood
Initiative and creator of the Long-distance Dads Incarcerated
Fatherhood Program. He holds a Ph.D. in Family Counseling.
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