FATHERING TEENS ON THE EVE OF THE THIRD MILLENNIUM
Steve Wood
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 teenagers.

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 marital breakup.

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 God... "

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 Catholic faith.

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 Dobson video.

Family Life Center
P.O. Box 6060
Port Charlotte, FL 33949


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