In keeping with this month’s theme of nurturing relationships, here’s some important news. Saying “I love you” to your teens, asking about their interests over dinner, and making sure they feel supported at school, can protect them from a variety of problems as they grow into adulthood.
A new study from the Centers for Disease Control shows that a safe, loving home environment can help adolescents avoid getting into trouble, and keep them out of the hospital as well.
Researchers followed middle and high school students into their 20s and 30s and found that those who felt loved and secure at home and in the classroom, had a 66% lower chance of mental health problems, and of engaging in risky sexual behavior, substance abuse or violence.
“Connectedness” was the protective factor — a sense of belonging, being cared for, and supported by family, schools and the community. The data showed what common sense has long told us —that feeling safe and staying safe are often the same thing. In the study group, investigators found that teens who felt secure at home and in school experienced:
- Roughly a 65 percent reduction in lifetime prescription drug misuse and other illicit drug use
- A 54 percent reduction in being diagnosed with an STD
- A 51 percent reduction in being the victim of physical violence in the past year.
The CDC’s advice to parents:
- Make time to enjoy activities together with your children
- Encourage children to join clubs at school, explore their own interests, and volunteer in the community.
- Those activities can help build your child’s social and emotional maturity.
“Our nation’s youth are experiencing several public health crises— including STDs, drug overdose, and suicide,” says the CDC’s Dr. Jonathan Mermin, MD, MPH. “It is encouraging to know that connecting with teens in the home and classroom can lead to a healthier, happier life for years to come.”
The adolescent years don’t have to be a time of increasing withdrawal and rebellion. Parents, teachers, and caregivers can foster connectedness by talking openly and honestly with teens and by staying involved in their daily lives.
So don’t let your kids pull way – make a special effort to reach out. The more you know about their relationships, concerns, and general interests, the more you can gauge when they might need some extra help or TLC.
Read more about this study here