The Associated Press and MTV released the results of a poll on the nature of happiness among America’s young people—ages 13 to 24. “What makes you happy?” the poll asked. It will surprise (or shock) many that the number one response was spending time with family. Next was spending time with friends, followed by time with a significant other.
Some other relevant findings: Nearly three-quarters of young people say their relationship with their parents makes them happy. When asked to name their heroes, nearly half of respondents mentioned one or both of their parents—with moms barely edging out dads. And overwhelmingly, young people think marriage would make them happy and want to be married someday. Most also want to have kids.
If you have a teenager at home, you may be wondering, “Whose kids did they poll? My teenager would never give those kinds of answers.” The results are certainly surprising given the tension that exists between many parents and their teenagers.
On the other hand, these poll results are indicative of what’s typical for teens and young adults. They would never admit it to us or to their friends—they have to keep up appearances of having an attitude or being “cool.” Part of that is a reluctance to admit any dependence on mom or dad. But if they stop and think for a minute, they really do value our role in their lives and the importance of family.
So, dads, be encouraged! Your teenager will likely never admit it—and that’s okay—but he or she really does gain security and stability from being on good terms with you. It’s like a toddler who is willing to explore a little farther away because he knows his dad is nearby, watching his every move. It’s similar with your teenager. She will venture much further away and will often be out of your sight—and there will be storms along the way—but she still takes great comfort in knowing you’re a solid, consistent reference point, always there to encourage, guide, love, and maybe even rescue her.

Action Points

  • Does your teenager resist your hugs? Find another way of showing him love. (And don’t give up on the hugs.)
  • During the next few weeks, make a special effort to make adjustments so you can fit into your child’s busy schedule.
  • Surprise your child by communicating trust that she can handle an upcoming challenge or responsibility.
  • Ask your child what he would like to do with you, and then make time to do it.