By Dr. Meg Meeker
Men, good men: We need you. We—mothers, daughters, and sisters—need your help to raise healthy young women. We need every ounce of masculine courage and wit you own, because fathers, more than anyone else, set the course for a daughter’s life.
Every day, 21,000 teens will become infected with a new STD. In fact, a British study found that almost half of all girls are likely to become infected with an STD during their very first sexual experience. We have a serious problem on our hands.
As a doctor I can probe, culture, prescribe antibiotics, and aggressively treat and track contagious STDs. But depression is different. It’s more elusive, yet equally, if not more, dangerous. It can come and go, or it can settle in, making itself so comfortable in an adolescent’s psyche that it’s nearly impossible to extricate.
Whatever one’s personal view, your son wants to know—and needs to know—why he’s here, what his purpose in life is, why he is important. Boys who don’t have a well-grounded understanding on these big questions are the most vulnerable to being led astray into self-destructive behaviors.
Chances are you don’t realize it, but right now, at this very minute, there is an epidemic racing through the lives of our teenagers. This epidemic literally threatens their very lives. I am a pediatrician. I see and treat these youngsters every day. I’d like you to meet some of my patients.
From the moment your daughter first sees you, she gives you hero status. Why? Because every little girl sees her father as larger than life. She wants you to be terrific. So regardless of how terrific you feel, your daughter, thinks that you are.
Dad, are a template for all male figures—teachers, boyfriends, her husband, uncles, and even God himself—in your daughter’s life. Because you are there form her earliest years, you set a template over your daughter’s mind and heart regarding how she will interact with all males. If you are kind, she will expect all males to be kind. If you are harsh and critical then she will expect the same treatment from other men.
A daughter listens to the tone of her father’s voice when he speaks, so make sure that your daughter hears you compliment—not criticize—others. This will give her a very clear sense that you perceive them to be as valuable as everyone else, including yourself.
Men love differently than women. That’s why you scratch your head in confusion when your daughter or wife cries and insists that you don’t understand. They want you to know what they want, like, and need, without ever telling you. You, on the other and, love deeply but differently.
Every mother worries about failing her kids. We wonder what we will do if our kids turn against us, grow up to hate us or end up disliking their lives. These are natural worries but unfortunately these fears can drive us crazy.
I have a list of women in my life whom I’ve dubbed my heroes. One is my sister who just got her master’s in counseling at age 50, another is a friend who started her own business to support her four children after her husband suffered a nervous breakdown and one is a medical colleague name Lori. I admire Lori because she is one gutsy mom.
Being a parent can often seem a daunting task. But I’m here to tell you that almost every parent has what it takes to raise healthy sons. You have the intuition, the heart, and, yes, the responsibility to change the life of your son for the better. This book is a step toward showing you how.
My husband is obsessed with biking. Well, he’s obsessed with a lot of sports but riding and tinkering with bikes is at the top of his list. One afternoon, as I watched him repair his bike, I stared at the wheels and I noticed something. If someone were to take the tire off and then remove the aluminum wheel frame, the wheel wouldn’t work, but the basic components would still be in place. The spokes would still be aligned by the hub at the center. Without the tire and rim, the wheel would look like a perfectly symmetric spider.
I have learned a few truths about parents and kids in my 30-year career as a pediatrician. One of the most profound is this: fathers are more important in their children’s lives than they will ever realize this side of heaven.
As a father, I’m sure there are things that you wish you knew about your children; so let me help you out. As a ‘professional’ listener of children for 30 years now, I have learned a lot about them. Your children want and need a lot from you but those needs and wants might surprise you. Let’s look at a few.
The New Year is well underway and now that the novelty of having a fresh start has worn off, let us not forgot that in the eyes of our Lord, we have a new beginning opportunity every single day. So considering this, will you continue to join me on my venture to become a nicer person? We have talked about changing the way we talk and finding more restful time during the day by slicing hours with electronics away from our days, so let’s keep going.
I know that many of you will be mad at this post so I ask you to dig deeply and ask what makes you mad. Is it because you disagree or because you know that what you want to see really does hurt women and children? Of course we have the right to see what we want and I don’t argue that. But we must always remember that our right to be entertained by certain things- like 50 Shades of Grey- may cost innocent people a lot of pain.
Daniel Day’s new book, Ten Days Without is an extraordinary lesson in life, discomfort, love and change. If you need to shake up your life in order to get unstuck, read the book. You will never put your coat on the same way.
Friends, I have a challenge for each of us. Let’s make 2015 our best family year ever! At Family Talk, we genuinely want you to enjoy being a parent and feel encouraged in your journey to be kinder, more deliberate and more confident in your parenting. Most of all, we want you become the parent that God wants you to be. And we’re here to help.
My husband, Brian, and I are on the same page about everything. Politics, music, food, we’ve ridden the same wavelength for more than a decade. Even when we were ambivalent about having a baby, I always knew he’d be an awesome dad, and the idea of him feeding a newborn a bottle or rough-housing with a little kid helped push me into the “we can do this” column.
Connect With Dr. Meg Meeker
Visit Dr. Meeker's Resource Page
Pediatrician, mother and best-selling author of six books, Dr. Meg Meeker is the country’s leading authority on parenting, teens and children’s health.
Dr. Meg writes with the know-how of a pediatrician and the big heart of a mother because she has spent the last 25 years practicing pediatric and adolescent medicine while also helping parents and teens to communicate more deeply about difficult topics such as sex, STDs and teen pregnancy. Her work with countless families over the years served as the inspiration behind her new groundbreaking book, The Ten Habits of Happy Mothers, Reclaiming Our Passion, Purpose and Sanity out from Ballantine Books. Visit Dr. Meg's Resource page.
Dr. Meg’s popularity as a speaker on key issues confronting American families has created a strong following on her blogs for Psychology Today. She has also spoken nationally on teen health issues, including personal appearances on numerous nationally syndicated radio and television programs. Additionally, Dr. Meg lends her voice to regular features in Physician Magazine and Psychologies (UK) and was a contributor to QUESTIONS KIDS ASK ABOUT SEX: Honest Answers for Every Age, The Complete Book of Baby and Child Care (Tyndale House Publishers) and High School Science text, Holt-Rhinehart and Winston, 2004.
Dr. Meg is presently re-certifying with the American Board of Pediatrics and is a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics as well as the National Advisory Board of the Medical Institute, Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics and Human Development at Michigan State University; Munson Hospital Family Practice Residency Training Program 1998-present.
Dr. Meeker lives and works in Traverse City, MI where she shares a medical practice with her husband, Walter. They have four grown children.
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