Helping Parents Avoid Heart Attacks
You can hardly glance at a magazine or newspaper without seeing an article written by someone sincerely concerned about the health of people’s hearts. Researchers have devoted huge amounts of resources to develop new drugs, foods, and lifestyle suggestions with the hopes of lowering the number of heart attacks in our society.
But this physical trauma only represents half of the war waged against our hearts. There is another type of heart attack that is just as rampant and destructive.
This aliment affects a significant part of the population, especially adults who have shouldered the responsibility of raising a child. Many of these hard working parents are experiencing heart pain in a very different way.
Perhaps you’ll recognize the type of heart attack I’m talking about…
Your son is planning on attending a party at a friend’s house where, from your perspective, rules take a back seat to having a good time.
Immediately your heart says, “This isn’t a good idea,” but you squirm under the pressure of being one of those “old guys” seen far too often in movies and television who are overprotective and out of date. With his friends waiting in the driveway you succumb instead to playing the role of the “cool” parent – also seen in popular media. These are the ones who hardly lift their eyes from the newspaper or television when they hand over the keys to the new SUV.
If we were still teenagers, we’d call this peer pressure – but don’t think for a minute that adults are immune from the very same forces of social nature. The pressure for parents to accept and conform to “improved” standards and ideals are stronger than ever. Each day we are carefully manipulated to adjust our values to match those imbedded within our entertainment and information products.
Just like cholesterol clogs America’s arteries and eventually causes heart muscles to seize, the deluge of gunk coming through cable television wires, Internet connections and other popular culture products work to stifle our hearts’ responses. Constantly bombarded, our hearts fail – not in the physical sense, but in the ability to share our values with our children and not be ashamed to do so.
Have you ever found yourself holding back on expressing opinions with your children because you fear your thoughts may not pass the current politically correct curriculum?
Perhaps it begins with something as simple as your daughter’s hemline. You feel it’s too short, but that’s “The Style.” Go to a movie, look at a magazine, or check the popular crowd she’s expected to compete with at school. All are following suit.
Underage drinking? Sex before marriage? Alternate lifestyle choices? Turn on the TV and everybody’s doing it… but is your heart telling you something else?
When we choose to ignore the physical needs of our hearts by sitting in front of a television eating snack foods, they begin to die. In a similar way, if we ignore our hearts’ promptings for too long, they eventually go away.
Strengthening our hearts against the attacks from social pressures is very similar to adopting a solid fitness program. We must allow our hearts to be built up, and the best exercise is to listen to them and develop the strength required to share our feelings with our children... and yes… even set down rules.
Besides the pain a parent feels, what is the cost to our children if we ignore these feelings and don’t provide guidance in their lives?
In 2000 the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University released a study that confirmed what our hearts have been telling us all along:
“Only one in four teens in America (27 percent, about 6.5 million) lives with ‘hands-on’ parents--parents who have established a household culture of rules and expectations for their teen's behavior and monitor what their teens do: such as the TV shows they watch, the CD's they buy, what they access on the Internet, and where they are evenings and weekends. These teens are at one quarter the risk of smoking, drinking and using drugs as teens with ‘hands-off’ parents.” (The complete report can be found here: http://www.casacolumbia.org/newsletter1457/newsletter_show.htm?doc_id=49859)
So the next morning, after the party is over and your son staggers out of bed around noon, resist the urge to complain and instead extend an invitation to talk. With patience, and with the heat of the moment over, this is the opportunity to show him that you are interested in being a “hands-on” parent.
With time, and an outpouring of love, your role in your son or daughters life will become more prominent and will provide them with a real world example as opposed to the fictional falsehoods portrayed in media.
And it might prevent your next heart attack… in more ways than one.