A long time ago, or so it seems, back when I was pregnant with my oldest, now 14 year old daughter, I had a few routine tests done at the doctor's office, which revealed a possible problem. Praise the Lord, all did end up being fine, and later that year I delivered my sweet girl. I remember thinking at that time, "I just need to get through this pregnancy, and then I'll be finished with my worrying." Spoken, or thought in this case, as a naïve, first time mom. A mother NEVER stops worrying. Many, if not most of us find ourselves telling ourselves, "If I can only get through - the terrible two's, the threenager three's, etc., that then it will all be better, and we can relax. Nope. We have been entrusted with our children, and with that privilege, comes the responsibility to guide them towards adulthood. The journey of parenthood often finds us worrying if we're doing the this job the "right" way, if our kids are normal, and so on. If you are a follower of Jesus, you will already know that the Bible commands us not to worry. Any parent will tell you that often, that is a hard commandment to follow!
You may already be familiar with the names Hal and Melanie Young. They are well known for their practical, Biblically based books and resources to help in the task of raising boys into Godly men. As our family has girls, I confess that I haven't often taken the time to look at many of their publications. But then, this review became available, and our two worlds collided. I have two daughters, one in the throes of "tweendom", and one just barely into the teen years. Through the Homeschool Review Crew, I had the opportunity to read and review their book No Longer Little - Parenting Tweens With Grace and Hope , by Great Waters Press . Oh, my, can you say, instant fan?! There is no exaggeration on my part when I tell you that this book arrived at the best possible time. As I read through the pages, I was saying to myself, yes, that's my daughter, so is that, and so is that, as well as a hearty thank you, it's normal!
Twelve chapters will introduce and explain the following:
Chapter 1 - Getting Bigger: Hormones and Body Changes
Chapter 2 - The Rollercoaster: Emotional Upheaval
Chapter 3 - Brains Turn To Mush: Why School Goes Awry
Chapter 4 - Many a Conflict, Many a Doubt: Spiritual Questioning
Chapter 5 - The Awakening: Sexuality and Virtue
Chapter 6 - Social Struggles: Overcoming Awkwardness
Chapter 7 - Media, Gaming, and Discernment: More Than Amusement
Chapter 8 - Conflict At Home: Family Relationships
Chapter 9 - Youth in the Bible: Youth in the Bible
Chapter 10 - Celebrating Growth: Coming of Age Ceremonies
Chapter 11 - Producers, not Consumers: Work and Stewardship
Chapter 12 - The Next Big Thing: High School and Beyond
I had barely finished the Introduction of this book when I knew that this was going to speak to my life. That first page addressed a similar conversation that I had just had with my oldest daughter. Wow. Talk about God's timing. The first chapters lay the groundwork by explaining the intense physical changes that a tween goes through as adolescence begins. It's funny, because I felt comforted as I read. The text confirmed much of the same facts and information that I have been telling my girls for a couple of years now. I've continued to tell them that they are normal, and that their emotions have a lot to do with the flood of hormones that their body is releasing as they make the transition to womanhood.
And ohhhhh, the hormones are great. Did you know that "both sexes have hormonal surges exceeding fifty times the normal, stable levels they have in adulthood?" (Page 7 from No Longer Little ) As a matter of fact, those hormones are on full display in my house, at this very moment, as I have one VERY emotional child sobbing over something that in my adult mind, is a non issue, but to her, the world is ending. Excuse me while I take a moment to hug this book, and cram a piece of dark chocolate in my mouth. Not kidding.
So, I had a basic understanding of the hormonal part of things regarding the entry into puberty, but the spiritual aspect was lower on my radar. I'm telling you, it was God's timing that I read this book at this stage in life. I didn't realize how common it is for middle schoolers to begin questioning the validity of Scripture, and even God's existence. The day before I began reading the book, my daughter came to me with some big questions about just such things. I'm happy to say, that by God's grace, I stayed calm and asked her to tell me what she was struggling with, but on the inside, I freely admit that I was a bit shaken. I was blown away when I read the very next day, that this was a common occurrence during these tween/teen years. Cue me exhaling!
I devoured the rest of the book. There were so many sections that I wanted to remember and go back to later. I have a lot of bookmarks in my upstairs dresser, but I didn't want to put the book down to get them, so I ended up using Kleenex from the box next to me. By the time that I was finished, my book was bulging with Kleenex, lol.
I noticed a recurring theme throughout the book, which is, "Don't freak out!" Both Hal and Melanie speak of "de-fanging the serpent", lol. That is to say, appreciate the physical changes occurring physically and emotionally in your child, and do everything you can to respond, rather than react to their emotional outbursts. I need to read those words again, for sure. The authors guide us in learning when to stay calm and avoid joining in your child's chaos when it happens. And we know it will happen.
The middle of the book tackles that oh so uncomfortable topic of sexuality, and how we can not only discuss it with our kids, but how to implement protective measures, and guide them in Biblical patterns of thought. They bring up pornography and the differences in how men and women tend to seek it out. Boys and men are visual, and tend to gravitate to videos and such, and while women can and do take that route too, the issue of "story porn" was brought up. That would be the written word, as in many of the trashy novels available. The bottom line is, have those tough conversations with your kids, and also take preventive measures in putting in filters for your Internet, and do it now! It may be embarrassing at first, but letting your child know that you are a safe person to speak with will not only help your relationship, it can also help your kids learn to make Godly decisions in the future.
As you come to the end of the book, it's with a look to the future, and how parents can be teaching their children what responsible adulting looks like, for lack of a better phrase. That is presented in teaching when it may be a good idea to pay for chores, and when not to, what contributing to the family looks like, and how to be responsible consumers.
I love an example that the Young's use regarding the latter, through a letter that Benjamin Franklin wrote to a friend in 1779. Franklin tells a story of how as a boy, he received some money, but then spent more than he should have on a toy whistle. His friends and family laughed at him saying he could have bought so much more if he hadn't wasted his money on that whistle. Franklin goes on to provide examples of how in life you can "Give too much for that whistle", whether it's through being a cheapskate, or foolish, or mean. I'm paraphrasing quite a bit. It's a fantastic letter, and I read it to my kids right after reading it. I think our new family phrase very well may be - Don't give too much for that whistle".
Also near the end, they talk about the differences in being a teenager some decades ago versus this modern age, and the significance that can be had by holding a coming of age ceremony for our kids as they enter the teen years. This might be compared to a bar mitzvah, with various older adults of the same gender offering words of encouragement and truth. I love this idea, and at first I thought it might be too late to do this with my oldest, as she already began her teen years. But of course we still can! She just graduated 8th grade, so what a great time to gather friends and family, and speak into her life.
At the bottom of every page, there are notes and references provided for extra study. As you reach the end of the book there is a generous reference section, one for other related books, and then a Scripture reference section. The very last pages provide an index to look up various topics at a quick glance.
I love this book, I mean, really love it. This is a must have for every Christian family that is or will be navigating the often choppy waters of the tween/teen years. The arrival of this book was perfect for me. Even if you think that you know what to expect during these adolescent years, I bet you'll find some truths here that will have you breathing a sigh of relief. Should I ever get the opportunity to meet Hal and Melanie Young, I'm going to give them a hug, and offer my heartfelt thank you to them.
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