The Christian Broadcasting Network


How Dads Affect Teen Drug Statistics

By Randell Turner, Ph.D.
Guest Writer 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 no relationship.

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.

Get involved

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.

Be consistent

That way children know what to expect and what they can count on.

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 the end.

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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