Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Family: the most important element. What Teens Want

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Sisters enjoying a moment of laughter
by Linda Shaw 

Family: The Most Important Element
What Teens Want

Gifts, styles, transportation, and the way we communicate all take on new modes, but feelings about families seem to remain constant. A recent poll from April of 2010 showed that 89 percent of those polled reacted positively to the term “family values”. Additionally in an October 2010 poll 76 percent of those polled responded to the statement: family represents “the most important element of my life.” Comparatively, only one percent of this poll responded that family was “not an important element of my life.”

Recently while visiting my own parents, I read a 1997 Readers Digest article entitled “What Teens Really Want,” by Rachel Wildavsky. 1022 teens between the ages of 16-18 were asked what they valued and their views on family. 76 percent believed their values were pretty much the same as their parents, and 96 percent expected to marry. When asked what they wanted out of life or what brought them the most satisfaction, 91 percent responded to “having a good marriage,” and 94 percent chose “raising healthy and happy children.” Other poll choices included: earning lots of money (28%), making a name for yourself (33%), being active in your community (38%), and having plenty of recreational time (42%).

As I read the article I was struck that even though times have changed, and parents are often overwhelmed by the societal empowerment of teens, teens still basically want to belong to family. They understand that family is not about a Hollywood ending where romance and fairy-tale endings make us walk away feeling wonderful, but questioning our own family reality. Nor does it need to be defined by material possessions, income, or even education. Family is about connecting with one another, no matter how hard times may be.

All families go through difficult times.  Seventeen-year-old (in 1997) Jon Stokes of Dallas said that he learned a realistic lesson from his parents’ tenacious marriage. He said,

“Marriage isn’t all romance and lovey-dovey. You commit to staying through the bad times and you share your life. You think about your actions and you share your obligations.”

As the Christmas season wraps around me, I have been able to consider this “most important element” of my life. I am thankful for my teen -age son, and his older siblings. I am thankful for his love of tradition, and of how he seeks always to remind me to take time to create those “special moments.”
He has reminded me that Christmas isn’t about giving our teens what peer pressure demands of them or helping them keep abreast of the newest trends, it’s really about family and the emotional connections we make at this time of year.

Is it any wonder that Christianity began with a family, or that we associate the giving of gifts with family togetherness? Prophets have long proclaimed the importance of family and its role upon society. Is it any wonder that the Son of God chose to come to us, and to give us his example, through a family?

It is my wish that as the Christmas season draws itself around you, that you might understand the elemental love that families bring to all of us. That you won't worry about the many inconsequential moments, but remember the most important element, to the most important moments of your life, those found within your family.

Merry Christmas.

Have you asked your teen what he values most?

Have you asked your teen about his values?

Roper Center for Public

Wildavsky, Rachel, and Nigel Holmes. "What Teens Really Want." Readers Digest (1997): 50-57. Print.c Opinion 75th Anniversary Edition 




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