|Successfully fathering children through the transition from childhood
to adulthood has never been easy. Fathers of teens in the decade ahead
face the most challenging fathering task in human history. We are living
through nothing less than a worldwide collapse of Christian culture.
While all of us are going to be painfully affected by the collapse, no
one is going to feel the pressures of this cultural collapse more than
Most of the cultural and institutional aids that have traditionally
assisted parents guiding their children through adolescence have lost
their effectiveness. Even worse, some of these institutions have become
a significant part of the problem. The lifestyle most young people adopt
before they reach their twentieth birthday is one that regards mortal
sin as an acceptable lifestyle. More than ever, teens need their dads to
shepherd them through this difficult phase of life.
Some fathers may chuckle at these warnings, seeing them as alarmist
misapprehensions. Other fathers, realizing that the eternal welfare of
their teen is really at stake, will exclaim, "What can I do as a
father to save my teen?"
Here are four practical steps a dad can take for the temporal and
eternal welfare of his teens:
1. Provide Parental Supervision for Your Teens.
Fathers who grew up in the sixties might be tempted to think that
sexual temptation for teens is still greatest at Lover's Lane, or at the
drive-in. Here is news: Lover's Lane is now a subdivision and the
drive-in is now a shopping mall. So where do most sexual temptations for
today's teens occur? They occur in your home, maybe even in your own
bed! This can come as a shock to many parents.
Home is the place where today's teens get into trouble the most.
"Three out of five teens who have sex do so at home when their
parents are away, and four out of five students who drink do so at their
parents' or friends' houses when the parents are away" (The
Washington Times, 1/22/96, reporting from the annual survey by Who's
Who Among American High School Students).
Some Catholic dads might exclaim, "These rates of sexual sin at
home could not possibly be occurring among Catholic teens." No,
they might not be occurring at these rates. There is one study that
indicates that the rates among Catholic teens may be even higher. In a
study appearing in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence
researchers investigating 1,228 U.S. parochial students reported the
eye-opening finding that "three out of four [sexually experienced]
teenagers reported using someone's home for the location of first sexual
experiences. It appears that an empty and unsupervised home provides
more opportunity for the adolescent as well as for the younger
grade-school latch key child to engage in sex" (Quoted from Family in America, published by the Rockford Institute,
Rockford, IL, February, 1996).
Another study done by Michigan State University and the University of
Wisconsin- Madison found that unchaste teenagers are likely to come from
homes "where parents do not monitor them [teenagers] closely and
hold permissive values regarding teen sexual behavior." This study
showed "a very clear association between level of parental
monitoring and sexual experience for both males and females"
(Journal of Marriage and the Family, Vol. 56, 1994, pp. 181-192
quoted in Family in America, June 1994).
Michael McManus in his book, Marriage Savers, reports on two
recent secular studies showing a 53% to 71% higher probability of
divorce if premarital intercourse has been engaged in. To translate this
into concrete terms it means a 53% to 71% increased probability that
your grandchildren will grow up fatherless. According to studies
reported by David Blankenhorn in Fatherless America,
"Daughters of single parents are 92% more likely to dissolve their
own marriages" (p.46).
The effects of pre-marital sex and the subsequent likelihood of
divorce taken to the third generation carry a staggering probability of
The statistics above certainly do not prove that if your teen engages
in pre-marital sex that your great grandchildren will automatically grow
up in fatherless families. Yet the statistics do warn of a string of
potential catastrophic consequences stemming from a lack of adequate
supervision. What you do, or do not do, by way of providing supervision
for your teen could have effects for generations to come.
Fathers of teens and younger children should take a close look at the
seventh commitment of St. Joseph's Covenant Keepers which reads, in
part, "...We will seek to provide the maximum opportunity of our
wives to nurture our children at home." It is worth sacrificing
material comforts and pleasures to provide the opportunity for our wives
to be at home for our teens. In situations where it is financially
impossible for your wife to be at home, then seek the active assistance
of grandparents, relatives, friends, and neighbors.
2. Establish a Life-Goal for Your Teens.
As a father you should clearly communicate your one supreme wish for
your teen. There is not a better life-goal than to experience eternal
life with Jesus Christ. Tell your teen that your supreme wish is to
share eternal life with them. Fathers, do not underestimate the value
and impact of communicating such a life-goal to your teen.
James Dobson's video entitled, Finding God 's Will For Your
Life (#1 in the video series Life on the Edge: Preparing for the
Challenges of Adulthood) is an excellent tool to communicate your
wish and life-goal to your teen. After "Pistol" Pete Marovich
suddenly died while playing basketball with him, James Dobson went home
and told his son that he wanted his son with him in heaven more than
anything else he could desire in life.
Most Christian materials produced for teens are seriously lacking.
They are either too fluffy in an attempt to be trendy, or too boring in
an attempt to be religious. Dobson's video breaks out of this mold. It
is the best thing I have ever seen in twenty-five years of reviewing
materials for teens. After watching it with your teens, let them know
what your chief wish in life for them is.
3. Take Determined Action to Root Your Teen in the Catholic Faith.
Noah was a father who lived through the most catastrophic cultural
collapse in ancient history. In his generation wickedness had pervaded
every facet of human life. Noah realized that his children did not have
to perish with the ancient world. Hebrews 11:7 says, By faith Noah,
when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save
his family. He took a pro-active stance that resulted in the saving
of his family. You can do the same.
Jesus warned of wickedness arising towards the end of the age that
would resemble "the days of Noah." Noah was a prototype of a
successful father in an age of apostasy. God's safety provision for our
modern "days of Noah" is not for each dad to go out and build
an ark. In biblical typology, Noah's ark prefigured the Church. In the
stormy days ahead it will become increasingly obvious that the Catholic
Church alone has the divine promises and protection necessary for the
safety and survival of family life.
When the Roman Empire was collapsing St. Augustine wrote The City
of God to encourage those whose hearts were fainting as they saw
centuries of stability collapse before their eyes. In a similar fashion,
Psalm 46 consoles believers living in turbulent situations by describing
the stability of "the city of God."
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. 2
Therefore we will not fear though the earth should change, though the
mountains shake in the heart of the sea; 3 though its waters roar and
foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult. Selah 4 There is a
river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of
the Most High. 5 God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God
will help her right early. 6 The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he
utters his voice, the earth melts. 7 The LORD of hosts is with us; the
God of Jacob is our refuge.. 10 "Be still, and know that I am
Catholic fathers can have the quiet confidence in the midst of our
contemporary turmoil that the Catholic Church is going to survive
despite the worst of storms. Anchor your family in the time-tested
Catholic faith and your family will be capable of passing through any
storm. Lead your teen by your example of taking full advantage of your
There is special spiritual strength available for your teen in
frequent reception of the Eucharist. The problem is that all teenagers
like to sleep — late. How can teens be motivated to more frequent Mass
attendance? One overlooked secret to motivating teens is an Enthronement
of the Sacred Heart in the home. A Sacred Heart Enthronement increases
charity in every family member's heart. Devotion to the Sacred Heart in
the home will inevitably lead to greater Eucharistic devotion. In my own
family I am pleasantly surprised to see my teens make the sacrifice of
getting up at dawn without any arm-twisting to get to daily Mass. I feel
that their growing attachment to the Blessed Eucharist is a fruit of the
Enthronement of the Sacred Heart in our home.
4. Stay married. Keep covenant with your wife.
The Council on Crime in America released a report on January 5
saying, "America is a ticking violent crime bomb, and there is
little remaining time to prepare for the blast." The report warned
of a "coming storm of juvenile crime" that would be more
brutal than anything Americans have experienced (The Washington Times, January 15, 1996). Criminologists have discovered that the
best predictor of the crime rate for any sector of America is the
divorce rate for that area. Broken marriages not only contribute to
violent crime by teens, but also escalate the probability of drug abuse,
educational failure, suicide, susceptibility to peer pressure, and
future marital failure. To rescue our teen culture we are going to have
to rediscover lifelong marital faithfulness. Staying faithfully married
to your wife is the single most important factor in fathering your teen.
The most common marriage buster is adultery. The majority of those
falling into this trap will eventually lose their marriages as a result.
How does a man avoid sexual sin in a sex-saturated society? He avoids
sexual sin by avoiding occasions to sin with the same diligence that
American infantrymen are avoiding land-mines in Bosnia. Wise men avoid
sexual sin by avoiding those things that lead to, or stir up, sexual
sin. Fools delude themselves into thinking they can handle any
temptation. If you love your teen, then stay faithful to your wife by
watching what you watch and watching where you go — very carefully.
(Part II of Parenting Teens on the Eve of the Third
Millennium will appear in the next issue.)
You can contact the Family Life Center to obtain a copy of the