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Working with teens is “the roller coaster ride of your life”

| by Ronald Keener

Family expert Jim Burns, president of HomeWord and senior director of the HomeWord Center for Youth and Family at Azusa Pacific University, has authored a handy guide for parenting teens.

“To raise teens to become responsible adults, parents need to help their teens grow through developmental changes to develop a healthy self-identity, establish good relationships, make wise decisions, and grow in their relationship with God,” shares Dr. Burns. 

In this book, Understanding Your Teen: Shaping Their Character, Facing Their Realities (IVP, 2017), he shows how parents can shape behavior and character, navigate social media challenges, and have healthy communication and conflict resolution. Burns lists, and tackles, the “realities of our day”: cyberbullying, dating violence, self-injury, depression, sexuality, suicide, drug and alcohol abuse, and dealing with tragedy. Some teens may deal with every one of those, and who among us don’t need the kind advice and counseling Burns shares in his book of 177 pages?

Burns tells the story of a friend of his, a family ministry expert, who surveyed a group of teens about how much his ministry had influenced their faith. He found that, “by far the greatest influence was moms, followed by dads, grandparents, other relatives, siblings, friends, and finally the church.” Burns observes, “this is not to downplay the important role youth ministry and your local church can play but rather to remind us that as parents we set the spiritual pace for our kids, for good or bad.”

The church does have an important influence. Burns reminds us that “Teens with parents who attend church regularly will also be inclined to attend church regularly. With a healthy faith modeled at home, kids will naturally develop more of a faith mindset. The good news is that we do not need to be perfect parents. Teens today are looking for authenticity more than anything else, and it is possible to model a life of integrity even in the midst of developing your own spiritual life.”

Burns says the book is his “life’s work” and is his “life’s passion.” He relates the story of finding his life’s work at age 16 when a “complete stranger handed me a piece of paper with a photo of the ocean and a psalm written on it,” while hanging out at the beach with friends. He saw the experience as a “calling on my life.” “I have never wanted to do anything else. Even when I speak at marriage conferences or write books for parents, my ultimate purpose is to help kids.”

Burns says he “started working with teens right after that beach experience, and I never stopped.” In the closing of the preface, he writes that “one thing I know about parenting teens is that you will be a much more effective parent if you stay calm, develop and follow a plan, and get as emotionally healthy as you possibly can.” And he concludes in a way that most parents would agree with: “If you like roller coaster rides, then get ready for the ride of your life.”

Photo source: istock

Ronald Keener

Ronald E. Keener was editor of the national business and leadership magazine, "Church Executive," for eight years, and writes from Chambersburg, Pa. His church interests lie with congregational transformation, church health movement, church strengthening and revitalization and reporting on churches that have not just survived but thrived. 


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