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Paying Attention to Teens’ Rites of Passage


The national organization Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) and Liberty Mutual Insurance conduct an annual survey of teenagers in America to identify ways to help teens make better decisions. This year's Teens Today report relates to how teens handle important transitions in their lives and the impact of those "rites of passage" on their decision making.

The Teens Today report is sobering. The report reveals that "high school teens whose parents pay the least attention to significant transition periods (45%) such as puberty, school change, and key birthdays are more likely than teens whose parents pay the most attention (81%) to engage in high risk behaviors, including drinking, drug use, early sexual intercourse, and dangerous driving. They are twice as likely to report daily stress and appear to be twice as likely to report being depressed and bored."

Candidly, the results of this survey are fascinating to me. Consider some of the other findings.

Relationships. Teens whose parents communicate about, recognize and celebrate important transitions report having an extremely close relationship to their parents. They tend to have excellent communication with their parents. They tend to be more influenced by their parents in their decisions about drinking, drugs and all forms of sexual activity.

Outlook on Life. Eighty-three percent of teens in this same category report feeling happy every day or almost every day, compared to 49% of those whose parents don't acknowledge key transitions. They also report having a high sense of self (67%) compared to 22% of those who report parental inattention to their rites of passage.

School Situations. The trends are the same with middle school aged children as they are with high school aged children.

Driving. Teens with high levels of parental attention during their rites of passage tend to be safer drivers. They speed less, are more likely to wear seat belts and less likely to drive impaired or to ride with an impaired driver.

What Are the Important Rites of Passage?

According to the Teens Today report, these transition points or rites of passage include:

  • Puberty

  • Moving to a New School

  • Birthdays

  • Getting a Drivers License

  • Obtaining a First Car

  • Graduating from High School

  • First Date

Some other transitions that I have considered as a now five-time parent of teens:

  • Making or not making the school play, athletic team or other competitive team

  • Scouting awards and rank advancements

  • Quarterly report cards

  • First job

  • First school trip away from home

The Teens Today report is telling-being there with your teens at the crossroads of their young lives is critical to their behavioral choices and to their feelings about themselves. So what can a dad do to make these transitions important in their teens' lives?

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