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2010-01-14 digital edition

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2010-01-14 / Community News

Focus on the Family with Dr. James Dobson

Parents Must Make Time for Their Rebellious Teens

Question: Teenage rebellion has hit our home at last. My 15- year-old son’s rotten attitude just went from bad to worse! How do I get him through the “rapids” of adolescence without rocking the boat any more than absolutely necessary?

Dr. Dobson: First of all, you need to recognize that the trial you’re facing is “common to man.” Adolescent revolt is hormonally driven and occurs in the best of families. When hostility and rebellion begin to appear, how do you keep your boys (and girls) from blowing up and doing something stupid?

I’ve addressed that subject in the past, but let me offer a recent finding that I haven’t shared before. The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health surveyed 11,572 teenagers to determine which factors were most helpful in preventing harmful behavior, such as violence, suicide, substance abuse, early sexual behavior and teen pregnancy.

Here’s what the researchers found: The presence of parents is beneficial at four key times of the day –– early morning, after school, dinnertime and bedtime. When that regular contact is combined with other shared activities between parents and kids, the most positive outcome is achieved. The researchers also observed that adolescents who felt a sense of connection with their parents (feelings of warmth, love and caring) were least likely to engage in harmful behavior.

Some of my readers might be asking, “How can I be with my teenagers morning, noon and night? I have altogether too much work to do.” Well, you simply have to decide what is most important to you at this time. It won’t matter as much a few years down the road, but your availability right now could make the difference for your child between surviving or plunging off the cliff.

Question: I have great fear that my baby will die when I put her in her crib. What is known now about sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)? Have researchers figured out what causes these tragic cases where seemingly healthy babies die while sleeping?

Dr. Dobson: Sudden infant death syndrome is still a major concern, killing about 2,500 babies each year in the United States alone. We do know more, however, about the circumstances that are often associated with this terrible event. A study was conducted by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission with the collaboration of researchers at the University of Maryland and the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Mo. The results were presented at a meeting of the Society for Pediatric Research in 1996.

The epidemiologist who directed the investigation, Dr. N.J. Scheers, said, “We have not found a cause of SIDS, but our results show that specific items of bedding used in the U.S., such as comforters and pillows, were associated with an increased risk for death to prone-sleeping infants whose faces became covered, compared to infants on their sides or backs without soft bedding under them.”

It was concluded that babies placed on their stomachs in soft bedding are more likely to rebreathe their own carbon dioxide that is trapped in the blankets and pillows around them. In about 30 percent of the 206 SIDS deaths in the research project, babies were found with bedding pressed against their noses and mouths. Most of them were under four months old and could not extricate themselves.

The advice now being offered by doctors is that parents place their infants on their backs, not on their stomachs, and that a minimum amount of loose bedding be kept in the crib. Experts also recommend that pregnant women avoid smoking for a host of reasons; one of them being that prenatal smoking is a major risk factor for SIDS. In addition, secondhand smoke may also put infants at risk for SIDS. For a number of reasons aside from the danger of SIDS, children should not be exposed to smoke. Following this advice won’t eliminate all cases of SIDS, but it could save thousands of lives every year.

Dr. Dobson is founder and Chairman Emeritus of the nonprofit organization Focus on the Family, Colorado Springs, Colo. 80995 (www.focusonthefamily.org).

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