Yet, in this study released by Susan McHale, a professor of human development at Penn State University, and reported on by U.S. News (Health day News section), the answer may shock you.
While teenagers certainly may want to spend less public time with their parents, they may actually want to spend more private time together. This private time with parents—especially with fathers in this study—is connected with higher self-esteem and social confidence. Here is a quote from the U.S. New article supporting this finding.
The study authors were surprised to discover that when fathers spent more time alone with their teenagers, the kids reported they felt better about themselves. “Mothers weren’t unimportant, but they are kind of a given in most families,” said McHale. “Mothers’ roles are very scripted: they’re caregivers, activity planners.”
Something about the father’s role in the family seemed to boost self-esteem among the teenagers in the study, McHale said. What most differentiated some families from others was how much the dad was typically around and whether he devoted some of that time to be with his children, she explained.
The article is titled “Teens Benefit by Spending More Time with Parents”. While this may sound elementary to some, in our culture it is becoming more and more rare. The normal today is far removed from the 50s sitcom style family. Today the general rule is both parents work and the children follow suite by leading an over-schedulized extracurricular lifestyle. Parents and/or teenagers who spend quality time at home is now the exception, not the rule for the modern family.
So why does “higher self-esteem and social confidence” grow from a healthy relationship between parent and teenager? I believe it is because children model themselves after their parents example. If a teen can look deeply into the example set before them through quality private time, they then have a firm foundation on which to build as they enter into adulthood. They learn who they are better when parents (especially dads) make that relational investment into their children.
So what does this all boil down too? Spend time with your teenager. Even if they say they don’t want to, find time to just be together. It will impact you child immensely as they develop into an adult. Even if they cannot (or dare not) actually say that they want to hang out with you, the chances are it would be beneficial for you both if you would make it a priority to do so.
So plan that getaway. Take a special day off work. Make that intentional effort to connect with your teenager. They need you!
Your fellow worker in the field, Adam