Understanding Your Own Teen
May Book Recommendation
Once again, it is June 1st but I would like to share my May book recommendation. It is called “Understanding Your Young Teen” by Mark Oestreicher.
I actually read this book last fall! The jr. high youth pastor at our church said at the life group orientation meeting that if she could recommend only one book, this would be the one! So I immediately bought it and read it! I truly loved it! I am just now sharing it with you because I just recently pulled it down again to gain some more insight into my young teen. I cannot say enough great things about this book! I did not read this book until my oldest was in 7th grade and I so wish I had read it when we has in 5th grade. So, I highly recommend for any parent with a child ages 11-14.
A middle school youth pastor writes the book and he shares that between the ages of 11-14 that our kids will go through one of the most significant periods of change in their life. They will change physically, mentally, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually. There will never be another time when our kids will have all these changes at the same time which is why the author says that “the middle school years are one of the most misunderstood and underappreciated developmental periods of human life.”
However, he takes a very interesting approach to his book! It is not your typical parenting book on the how to parent a young teen. Instead, his main focus is how to understand your young teen. Listen to this quote from the author, “If you understand why your young teen thinks, acts, and feels the way he or she does, you’ll be in a significantly better place from which to engage with your child. And that’s the bottom line during the teen years- staying engaged and keeping lines of communication open. Developing a better understanding of your young teen will impact everything you do as a parent, from boundary setting to consequence enforcement, from conversations attempts to homework help, and even from family prayer times to vacations.”
In this book, the author takes you through each of these big developmental changes and talks in details about what is happening to our middle school. For example, in the chapter on cognitive development, he goes into detail about what changes are happening in their brain- how they are going from concrete thinking to abstract thinking. It really was eye opening to me!! I honestly wish I could share something from every chapter of the book, it was that good but today, I will focus on my favorite chapter!
My favorite chapter was the chapter on emotional development. He relates their emotions to colors on a palette. Listen to this: “Imagine that preteen painter with his little limited color palette. Then, without him actually realizing it, someone takes that old color palette away and replaces it with a significantly larger palette, one that’s preloaded with a huge assortment of colors. New shades, new combinations, new possibilities. And he starts painting. But he has not prior experience applying these new color options to the canvas of life. So for a while, his painting is extra bold or extra muddled. He’s creating art with patches of bright primary colors in one area of the canvas and subtle, nuanced shades in another. The combination is not always attractive, and sometimes it’s even jarring. But this experimentation is necessary to get him to a place where he can effectively experience, understand and articulate these new emotional possibilities.”
I love this because it helps me understand what is going on with my son especially when I see strong emotions coming out of him and he does not know how to manage them. Let me say that it is still not easy to parent a young teen. However, I found this book helped me see my son in a different light and offer him empathy and compassion as I try to understand all the changes that are taken place during these tough years. The author says, “We want to be fully engaged with our middle schoolers in the midst of their emotions, even joining empathetically in their emotions. But at the same time, we need to remind ourselves, “This is not about me.” Our kids’ emotions can quickly affect our own emotions, which is fine and good when we’re aware of it. But it is not helpful when we get swept up in our own emotional reactions.” Again, such great reminders as we navigate these crazy years.
I want to end this with one final thought from the author. Throughout his book, he says over and over, one of the most important things you can do during these years is to normalize your son or daughter’s experience. “Here is what he means: every young teen, at one time or another will feel abnormal. They feel as though they’re physically developing in the wrong way. Or they feel as though they’re the only ones experiencing emotional swings. Or they feel that their spiritual doubts are unique.” One of the greatest gifts we can give our kids is to let them know that these changes are normal as they go from being a kid to an adult and try to help understand them through the process.
God, please give us wisdom as we parent our young teens! Please help us understand and empathize with them as their bodies, minds, emotions, and everything is changing so much. Give us patience as we navigate these new waters and most importantly, help us show them unconditional love!! God, you understand our young teens more than we ever could so please guide us as parents! In Jesus name, Amen.
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