Hug Your Kids

Michael JacksonWhen your child reaches the teenage years it may seem like he or she doesn’t want the physical and emotional affection of mom or dad. But perhaps more than any time in their life, a teenager needs to experience the love of his or her parents.

An extraordinarily talented 5-year-old boy was rehearsing with his four brothers. The singing brothers were practicing for an upcoming TV special. Their father was guiding them through a number and the boys weren’t getting their parts just right. The little 5-year-old wanted a clarification so he addressed his father. “Daddy,” he began. But instantly his father interrupted him and sternly stated “I’m not your father now, I’m your manager and don’t you ever forget it.” And little Michael Jackson never did.

A few years before Michael’s death, he was speaking to some 800 students at Oxford University. He was promoting his newly-formed foundation, “Help the Children.” About fifteen minutes into his presentation he began to weep almost uncontrollably. After a few minutes he regained his composure and seemingly out of nowhere said, “I just wanted a dad. I wanted a father to show me love. But I never once heard my father say, ‘Michael, I love you.’”

More than fortune or fame; more than peer acceptance or anything else your kids could dream for, they want to know you are there for them with “unconditional love.” No, you don’t toss out the rules or lower the boundaries of protection. They need the boundaries to feel secure. But they need those rules and boundaries within the context of your loving relationship. The power of your love toward them will be the motivating factor to make the right moral choices.

When you finish reading these words, go to your child or teenager and surprise them with a hug. As you wrap your arms around them let them hear your words, “I love you.” And then commit to letting them see your love modeled before them every day. As you do, you will be convincing their emotions that you are there for them with an “unconditional love.” Your loving relationship can empower them to believe right, embrace the right values, and live right. That is the power of love.

Substance Abuse And Our Young People

Substance Abuse YouthThere was a time in cinematic history where virtually every actor/actress was portrayed on screen with a cigarette in hand. Smoking, it was implied, was cool. As a result everyone was doing it, including kids. Well, as awareness to the danger of smoking increased, “cool” images of smoking disappeared. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about drugs and alcohol. These vices are staples in everyday media. Simply, drinking and using drugs is shown as being cool.

The numbers bear the tale. 21% of high school seniors say they get high and 41% of the same group report drinking alcohol. Our kids are literally moving around in an intoxicated daze. Immature behavior is then amplified due to being under the influence, drunk driving, poor grades and attendance, anti-social and violent behavior and the list goes on.

There is no single age group of people more affected by alcohol and drugs than young people.  Nationwide, alcohol and drugs affect each and every one of us, directly or indirectly:  in our homes, in our families, in our school, in our dorm, in our community, town or city.

More than 23 million people over the age of 12 are addicted to alcohol and other drugs affecting millions more people — parents, family members, friends and neighbors.  For some, one time or infrequent use of alcohol or drugs can result in tragedy: alcohol overdose (alcohol poisoning), an accident or fall when under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or an arrest associated with alcohol or drugs that may cost you your reputation and/or your freedom. For others, even though they may not use alcohol or drugs, they could become a victim of an alcohol or drug-related crime. And, for yet others, what may have started as occasional use can turn into an addiction that presents extraordinary health concerns with potentially grave and tragic consequences.

The age of first use has tremendous consequences. Using alcohol and drugs before the brain has fully developed increases your risk for future addiction to alcohol and drugs dramatically. Young people who start drinking alcohol before age 15 are 5 times more likely to develop alcohol abuse or dependence than people who first used alcohol at age 21 or older. Research for drug use and drug addiction has found similar results.

Family history plays a huge role in addiction . Whether a person decides to use alcohol or drugs is a choice, influenced by their environment: peers, family, and availability. But, once a person uses alcohol or drugs, the risk of developing alcoholism or drug dependence is largely influenced by genetics. Plain and simple, people’s bodies respond to the effects of alcohol and drugs differently.  If you have a family history of alcoholism or addiction, you are four times more likely to develop a problem.

The bottom line is no one has ever won the game against alcohol and drugs. It always wins. Whether you recover or not, the damage has been done to yourself, your family, and friends. The best advice, stay away from it.

 

 

 

The Right Gift

 
Merry Christmas LightsWhat Makes a Gift “the Right Gift?” is it the financial value of the gift?  Is it the practicality of the gift?  Sometimes a gift is considered “right” if it is wrapped with a genuine, pure motive in the heart of the giver.

I recently heard a story of a man that punished his 3-year old daughter for wasting a roll of wrapping paper at Christmas time. Money was tight and he became infuriated when his daughter tried to decorate a box to put under the Christmas tree. Nevertheless, the little girl brought the gift to her father the next morning and gave it to him. He was immediately embarrassed by his earlier overreaction, but allowed his anger to flare again when he opened the box and found that it was empty. He yelled at his little girl telling her that “there has to be something in the box for it to be considered a gift.”  His three year old looked up at him with her voice trembling and tears in her eyes and said, “Oh, Daddy, it is not empty. I blew kisses into the box.  All for you Daddy.”

As we can see from this story, the gift may come in the form of an empty box, but the motive behind it is what makes it the right gift. It may not measure up to our material expectations but the love behind it is what makes it irreplaceable.

Christmas has always been a time for giving.  A time of searching for the “the right gift.”  However, this year, just like every other year, millions of people will open gifts, that aren’t necessarily “the right gift.”  Some gifts won’t fit.  Some will be the wrong color.  Many will be returned or exchanged.  But there’s one gift that meets everyone’s need, one gift that will never wear out, never break or need repairing.  A gift that is appropriate for a small child, a teenager, an adult, or a senior citizen.  Boy or girl, man or woman, it makes no difference.  The gift we all need is found behind the true meaning of Christmas.

America’s Teens in Trouble

Chad Varga AssemblyEvery month I write a blog and many of them concerning the desperate state of America’s youth and the need for our character education assembly programs in schools. The reason we continue to try and inform people of this need is because of what we are seeing in the youth of our nation’s public school systems. I often wonder if people realize what our children and grand children are being exposed to. I will try and give you a glimpse through my next two blogs.

Brian Graden, MTV’s president of programming said: “I can’t help but be worried that we are throwing so much at young adults so fast. And that there is no amount of preparation or education or even love that you could give a child to be ready.”

Today’s Teens Targeted and Exploited…

  • Advertising to teens is an estimated $150 billion a year industry.
  • Nearly 61% of all television programming contains violence, with children’s programming being the most violent.
  • MTV is watched by 73% of boys and 78% of girls ages 12 to 19, and it is profoundly influential in the lives of its young fans by glamorizing drug and alcohol use, sexual promiscuity and violent behavior.
  • MTV airs 9 sexual scenes per hour and more than 8 un-bleeped profanities per hour.
  • One in five children ages 10-17 that regularly use the Internet has received a sexual solicitation while online.
  • One in four children were unwillingly exposed to images of naked people or people having sex.
  • 90% of 8-16-year-olds have seen pornography online, most while doing homework.
  • 80% of 15-17-year-olds have had multiple hard-core pornographic exposures.

Today’s Teens and Sex…

  • 34 percent of young women become pregnant at least once before they reach the age of 20Ñabout 820,000 a year.
  • Approximately four million teens contract a sexually transmitted disease (STD) each year.
  • 8,000 teenagers contract an STD every day.
  • An estimated half of all new HIV infections occur in people under age 25.

 A Huge Task…

As you can see, we have a huge task in front of us to partner with educators across America in our effort to instill principles, values, and ethics that will somehow cut through all the wrong messages being sent to our young people today. As we launch into another year of school assemblies, we need your help now more than ever to truly make a difference in this generation of students. Our schools are the fountainhead from which will come nearly every future business person, lawmaker, school teacher, and parent in America. As we invest in them today, we are building a better America for tomorrow-one school at a time!

 

Lessons From History

Past:Future PicThe statistics are overwhelming. A noticeable lack of respect, integrity, and leadership is what seems to be defining this generation of students. Imagine an America where truth is relative…where tolerance means silence…where concern over the trivial dominates the TV media (reality shows). While we’ve certainly seen a decline in morality in America over the last 40 years, I believe that we are on the verge of an unprecedented shift in the ethical climate of our nation. Some people have even said that what I do through speaking to students is really just fighting an uphill battle; that there’s no way we can make a real difference. I guess that we could use that as an excuse and say they’re right, and accept the fact that there is no possible way to see true change in the character of today’s teens. Fortunately, we have the audacity to believe that this change is possible and the future can be bright for our Nations youth.

As I look at history, however, no one was ever remembered for accepting the status quo or simply taking a back seat when they saw an injustice. No, history remembers those who chose to stand up while others sat down, to speak up when others were silent, and to sacrifice while others were sulking. What if today, we decided to stand up for truth, speak up against injustice, and make a sacrifice that will launch the next generation toward their dreams instead of complaining about what we don’t have? Every indisputably great person who changed the course of history had these incredible qualities.