It is no secret that the teen years can be tough on kids and their parents. But for some parents, the teen years can be the most difficult of all as they wonder what happened to their innocent child. In WHEN YOUR TEEN IS STRUGGLING, Mark Gregston offers practical insight and advice for moms and dads.
Gregston and his wife Jan began working with teens more than three decades ago. Over the years they have worked in youth ministry in the local church, Young Life, Kanakuk Kamps and more recently started their own outreach, Heartlight Ministries, to help troubled teens. The wisdom and insights offered in this book come from firsthand experience and the frontlines of working with young adults.
While Gregston is encouraging about the transformation that can take place in the lives of troubled teens, he’s not unrealistic. He paints a picture of working with teens that includes both light and dark shades --- reminding us that every story does not end happily ever after, but through God’s redemption every life can be changed. There are lots of common questions parents ask, including “Why is my child so angry?” “Why does my child hate me?” “Who is this child that woke up this morning?” and “Why is my family falling apart?” Such questions are common to families in crisis. Gregston argues that even in the darkest moments, there is a bigger picture when God is involved --- of what He can do through the situation to mature, redeem and restore. He encourages parents not to lose hope no matter what.
One of the most intriguing chapters, “Were My Parents Really That Bad?”, focuses on some of the generational differences between parenting. It explores the dangerous transition of adults moving from parents to peers with their teens as they seek to win their affection and struggle to balance toughness and tenderness.
The book also touches on the problem of performance-based relationships --- something many parents fall into unknowingly. Gregston says that oftentimes parents’ communication with their kids is centered on sports, school, homework and other performance-based topics. The result is that teens begin to believe that the love their parents have for them is conditional. This performance-based thinking seeps into the church when pastors set standards that are unattainable. Gregston describes going into a church with a list of commitments on a youth group wall that were admirable but impossible to follow perfectly. The pastor wondered why there were so few kids in youth group. Gregston argues that we have to learn to love unconditionally; no matter what a child does, he or she deserves our love. That love is a reflection of the love God gives each of us.
Throughout each chapter, the author seeds the writings with stories of teens he has known throughout the years. We read of their losses, heartbreaks and behavior, as well as their parents’ responses or lack thereof. It is not until the end of the book that we find out how their lives turned out --- a fascinating look at the rest of the story in each of these lives.
Overall, WHEN YOUR TEEN IS STRUGGLING is an exceptional resource for parents whose teens are struggling.
Reviewed by Margaret Oines on November 13, 2011