Page 2 – Mark Oestreicher – Understanding Your Young Teen
Oestreicher spends the bulk of the book explaining, from both biological and sociological perspectives, what is changing in young teens and why this process is occurring. One of the strengths of the book is that he takes the biological changes of puberty seriously and shows how the change from concrete to abstract thought affects all aspects of young teens’ lives. He includes helpful reminders for parents about how to communicate with, and importantly listen to, their children without judgment or teasing. He also gives examples of how to help kids normalize their experiences without condescension. Oestreicher examines physical/sexual, cognitive, spiritual, relational and emotional development in individual chapters, and spends one chapter on how to navigate the delicate balance of dependence/independence that he sees as one of the key challenges that young teens must meet on their way to adulthood. Almost everything that one would expect to be covered in these chapters was, with one exception. In the section on physical and sexual development he did not deal with the issue of sexual orientation. With current heightened awareness of LGBT issues today, some discussion of this issue would have been welcomed and expected.
If the first eight chapters of the book are fairly concrete, the last two chapters of the book are more abstract. Here, Oestreicher analyzes contemporary youth culture, showing how issues that young teens face today truly are different than for their parents, and drawing out some final take-away implications from the whole book. This section was excellent, giving a birds-eye view of the rise of youth culture in America and the features that characterize current young teen culture. While much of the content of the first eight chapters will be familiar to those who took a human development class in college, these last two chapters, and the moving prayer that Mark Oestreicher writes to end the book, are worth the price of the book.
Understanding Your Young Teen: Practical Wisdom for Parents is a well-balanced and nuanced look at a period of life that brings much change for parents and their children, and should be an excellent source of encouragement and insight for its readers.
C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com