In the September 10, 1997 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association one of its articles shed light on a federally funded study of 12,000 teenagers. The research yielded an unexpected finding— teenagers still need their parents. It may seem to us that everything we say goes in one ear and out the other, but the fact is—according JAMA—parents play a significant role in their lives.

The study revealed that teenagers, who don't smoke, drink, have sex, take drugs, or commit acts of violence, refrain from doing these things because of two basic factors. The first, was feeling loved by their parents. The second was feeling comfortable in their school.

Researchers also found that if parents expect adolescents to get good grades and refrain from sex, teenagers tend to be influenced by those expectations. Moreover, the study showed that it doesn't matter about the family's income, or their race, or whether both parents work, or whether there is only parent at home—the most significant factor in well-balanced teenagers is that they recognized their parents are emotionally available to them.

Now, all parents claim to love their children, and I'm certain that most parents do. However, not all parents effectively communicate love, and not all parents make themselves emotionally available. So the question is not how much parents say they love their children, the question is how much their children believe it—and how much evidence there is to support that belief.

Michael Resnick, Ph.D. and Professor of Pediatrics and Public Health at the University of Minnesota, says that the most crucial need for teenagers is a strong sense of connection to their parents and their family. This parental connection, more than anything else protects teenagers from behavioral problems.

The Bible also suggests that parents remain emotionally available to their kids. 4000 years ago, Moses wrote these words in Deuteronomy 6:6-7 (ESV): “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

 The Scriptures teach—and this federal study confirms—that parents have a responsibility to be emotionally available to their children. We can't live our children's lives; neither can we become so wrapped up in our own that we crowd them out.


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