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The "Hands-On" Family

A 1999 Study by Columbia University's Center for Addiction and Substance Abuse coined the term "hands-on parenting."  According to the study, children with "hands-on" parents were statistically far less likely to smoke, use drugs, do badly in school or be involved in a teen pregnancy.  The study's authors emphasized that teens needed "parents, not pals."  And, parents should expect to monitor teens:  their whereabouts, their CD purchases, their Internet use, their studies, their friends, and their activities.

Successful parents and teens do things together.  Some of them are pretty basic.  For example, families that eat dinner together four or more times a week can expect their children to be happier and better-adjusted throughout the difficult teen years. 

Arguably, a commitment to sexual abstinence will require more of this "hands-on" parenting, and more togetherness, than almost any other decision a teen will make. 

So what can you do?

  • Find something to share.  It could be a sport, either as a participant or a fan.  It could be swing dancing.  It could be a shared book after dinner, shopping at a mall, fishing, a weekend drive, or music.
  • Expect some trouble, and prepare for it. Many teens hit a tough rebellious phase early in the teen years.  It might last two months, or it might go on longer.  Stick with your loving authority, and stick with your principles.  Once you get through the tough patch, your teen will be grateful, and you will be in new and more loving territory.
  • Set up a regular routine of accountability.  For teens, having the same-gender parent check in weekly to talk things over can help.  If that is not possible or appropriate, consider arranging to have your teen talk regularly with some kind of mentor or counselor - someone you can trust, who you know well.  Maybe that would be an adult relative, a coach, a clergy member, or a psychologist.  Be prepared.  Teens can start to resent this "checking in" as a nuisance.  And it can be.  So try to keep it casual, even fun.  Just don't neglect it.  Your teen will think twice about doing something if they know you're going to ask about it.