Dennis and Barbara Rainey begin their collaboration, So You’re About to be a Teenager by comparing adolescence to a jigsaw puzzle. They point out that people need the box top with the completed image as a guide to building the puzzle correctly.
They also paint adolescence as a forest with traps that can ensnare and advise teens to trust their parents and God’s word to make it out successfully.
While they acknowledge that this may seem scary to teens, they say the key is to put Jesus first.
The reader is encouraged to have a game plan to handle peer pressure. One of the elements of the plan should be to pick good friends because you will become more like them.
In order to pick a good friend, the book suggests kids look at the person’s brain rather than the appearance. What does the friend think? Look at their eyes, what do they watch? Consider their mouth, how they talk and what they say and also their hands. Do they use their hands appropriately or to be rude, steal, etc? And lastly, consider their feet and their hearts – where to they go and who do they follow?
There is an entire chapter dedicated to the changes a young girl will go through. In that chapter, they discuss the physical changes and reassure the young girl that the changes should be celebrated not feared. It acknowledges that boys will start to become important to them, but they must first behave modestly – including in their dressing.
“Evaluate what you are seeing, what you are hearing and what is going on around you in light of God’s word.”
There is also a chapter dedicated to the changes that young boys will go through. In it, they touch on the sex drive of young men.
“What you need to do now is make Jesus Christ first in your life, and with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, He will help you have self-control.”
The chapter dedicated to sex describes the physical aspect of the act and puts it into context within marriage. The authors strongly discourage masturbation.
“It is true that the Bible is silent about masturbation, but the Bible is not silent about sex. Nowhere in scripture do we find God’s blessing of sex as solo.”
The authors set high standards for staying pure. This includes no handholding, no kissing and no temptation. Rather, it advises the reader to trust their parents who have taken care of them and given them sound advice to this point.
Teens are also encouraged to consider the purpose of dating, which is to find someone to marry. It questions why teens would be in need of a marriage partner and advises them to leave it until they are older.
“Most young men and women start looking for love before they can handle it.”
One part of the book I particularly liked was the warning about the media’s constant message that people need to be in love.
“Advertising, magazines, move, the Internet, music and television will also encourage you to establish a romantic relationship with a guy or girl. But don’t listen to these messages; instead, listen to your parents and guard your heart.”
I also liked their advice to avoid missionary dating, which has not been emphasised enough in Christian circles.
“Let someone of the same sex redirect the path of someone who does not know Jesus. You pray for the persona and encourage him or her. But don’t date.”
Yet, as much as I love the messages in this book for something that was written in 2002 it felt disconnected from the culture our kids face today.
It doesn’t cover any advice about how to deal with the challenges and pressure they will face if they choose not to date or be physical with a boy or girl without being an outcast. That is something this book does not equip kids to handle.
In the back of the book, it calls on teens to commit to Christ wholeheartedly. They encourage the reader to sign their name to several promises including,
- Jesus as their Lord and Savior
- Stand up for what is right, even if friends make fun of them
- Guard heart and mind by avoiding pornography and music with sex or violent lyrics
- Not to play violent video games
- Not to smoke, drink or use drugs
- Not to have an abortion or support a friend to have one
There is a website address the teens are directed to where they can print out a certificate with the promises and frame it for their wall.
So You’re About to be a Teenager has a great title and the content is okay, I just didn’t feel it was written in a way that will connect to the modern reader. I don’t even feel it would be better suited to those under 10 years given the chapters on sex, dating and the like.