|Publisher:||Gospel Light Publications|
|Product dimensions:||85.00(w) x 10.75(h) x 2.50(d)|
Read an Excerpt
Preparing for Adolescence Group Guide
By James C. Dobson
Gospel Light PublicationsCopyright © 2000 James C. Dobson
All right reserved.
The Secret of
You are about to read a very personal book about an important time of life known as adolescence ... those years between childhood and adulthood. Some of you are nine, ten or eleven years old now, and you're just beginning to think about growing up. You're not sure what's coming, but you're excited about the experience and want to know more about the details. This book is written for you.
Others of you are already teenagers, and these concepts will be important for you too. Whether you're looking forward to your teen years or are already involved in them, you'll soon understand a little more about the questions and problems that are likely to occur in the years immediately ahead.
But why make such a big deal about adolescence? Why should we go to the effort to learn about this period of life? Well, very honestly, growing up will not be the easiest thing you'll ever do. It was not easy for those who are now adults, and you won't find it simple either. It's always difficult to grow up, because life presents many new demands when you enter a new phase. You don't remember it, I'm sure, but before you were born you were curled up nice and cozy insideyour mother's warm body. You could hear her heart beating steady, soft and secure, and you were safe and warm and comfortable in that world that God had provided. All your needs were met and there wasn't a care in the world. You had nothing to worry about and not a single concern.
But when the proper time came, you were rudely pushed out of that perfect little pocket, whether you liked it or not (nobody asked you!), and you entered this cold world where a doctor picked you up by your heels and whacked your behind. (That was some kind of welcome for a new fellow in the neighborhood!)
As a matter of fact, while you were hanging there, looking at all those upside-down people all around you for the first time, you probably would rather have gone back to that protected little world you just came from. But you simply couldn't stay in your mother's womb if you were going to grow and develop and learn.
The Challenge of Adolescence
In a way, moving into adolescence is like that. You've been in the very warm, secure world of childhood. All your needs have been met by your parents: they were there to put a Band-Aid on your big toe when you stubbed it on a rock, and they kissed away your tears when things didn't go right. You played most of the time, and life was pretty rosy and comfortable. But you can't stay in that childhood world forever, any more than you could remain in your mother's body. There's something better ahead for you-the excitement of growing up, of becoming an adult, of having your own family, of earning your own living, of making your own decisions, of being independent. This is the natural, necessary process of moving from childhood to adulthood.
Unfortunately, however, you can't just suddenly mature. First you have to wiggle out of your secure world of childhood, and that is where the difficulty often begins. There will be times when life will whack you on the behind, so to speak, just as it did before. And you may even feel that you're hanging by your heels once in awhile. There will be some new fears and some new problems, and the world won't be quite as safe as it used to be. But it's an exciting world, and it will be even better if you know what to expect.
With that introduction, then, I want to describe some of the new experiences that are about to occur. You'll soon have some of the most thrilling moments of your life (and some of the scariest, too!). We will be talking about the things that teenagers worry about most-the events that are most often upsetting. I want to help you get better acquainted with your mind, with your feelings, with your emotions, with your attitudes, with your body, with your hopes and dreams, with who you are, with where you're going, with how to get there, and with the things you're likely to face in the years ahead. We are going to face these issues head-on; nothing will be considered too sensitive or too delicate to discuss, as long as it's relevant to those of you between twelve and twenty years of age.
As you read this book, I hope it will make you want to discuss these issues further with someone in whom you have confidence. Let this be just a beginning; start to ask your own questions, to express your own concerns, and to make growing up a very personal event in your life.
The Dark Canyon
Let's begin by playing a mental game for a moment. Imagine yourself driving alone down the highway in a small car. You've just come through a little town by the name of Puberty, but now you're back on the main highway, and over on the right you see a sign that says "Adultsville, eight years straight ahead." You're clipping along the highway at about 55 miles an hour, heading for this great new city that you've heard so much about.
But as you round a curve, you suddenly see a man waving a red flag and holding up a warning sign. He motions for you to stop as quickly as possible, so you jam on the brakes and skid to a halt just in front of the flagman. He comes over to the window of your car and says, "Friend, I have some very important information for you. A bridge has collapsed about one mile down the road, leaving a huge drop-off into a dark canyon. If you're not careful, you'll drive your car off the edge of the road and tumble down that canyon, and, of course, if you do that you'll never get to Adultsville."
No Backing Up
So what are you going to do? You can't back up because your car has no reverse gear. None of the cars that travel on this highway can go backward. That's like trying to back up on the freeway-it just can't be done. So you ask the flagman, "What am I going to do?" And he says, "Well, I have this suggestion for you. Go ahead and drive down the road, but go slowly and carefully and keep watching for this ruined bridge. When you get to it, turn to the right and go south for about a mile or two. Then you'll find a place where you can get around the canyon and back onto the main highway again. You don't have to fall down that hole-you can drive around it-so good luck and drive carefully."
Now let me explain the meaning of this story. The automobile you're driving represents your own life. It has your name on the door. In fact, it has all of your characteristics, and you're driving this sports car down the highway of life toward adulthood. And, you see, I am that flagman standing beside the road. I'm waving the banner back and forth, and holding up a warning sign, and motioning for you to stop. I want to warn you about a problem that lies down the road-a "canyon" that most teenagers fall into on the road to adulthood. This is not a problem that affects just a few teenagers; nearly everybody has to deal with it one way or another during the adolescent years.
After I've motioned you to stop, I lean in the window of your car and tell you that many other young people have wrecked their lives by plunging down this dark gorge, but I can show you how to avoid it-how to go around the danger.
The Agony of Inferiority
What is this problem that so many adolescents face at this time of life? What is it that causes so much hurt and pain to young people between twelve and twenty years of age? It's a feeling of hopelessness that we call "inferiority." It's that awful awareness that nobody likes you, that you're not as good as other people, that you're a failure, a loser, a personal disaster; that you're ugly, or unintelligent, or don't have as much ability as someone else. It's that depressing feeling of worthlessness.
What a shame that most teenagers decide they are without much human worth when they're between thirteen and fifteen years of age! It may have happened to some of you even earlier, but in most cases the problem is at its worst during the junior high years. This is the canyon I was talking about-that dark hole in the roadway to adulthood that captures so many young people.
Some time ago I was interviewed by the editors of Teen magazine for an article they were writing on the subject of inferiority. The editors of this magazine knew that most teenagers face this problem. I tried to tell their readers that this is an unnecessary crisis: You can go around the difficulty and avoid it if you know what to expect. But if you simply drive your car down the highway full speed ahead, without thinking about the dangers and without being aware of them, you too can fall victim to this same feeling of worthlessness. It doesn't make sense that we should all have to suffer the agony of defeat. We all have human worth, yet so many young people conclude that they're somehow different-that they're truly inferior-that they lack the necessary ingredients for dignity and worth.
Some of you know that I often work with young people who have these kinds of problems. At one time I served on a high school campus, and there I worked with many teenagers who were struggling with some of the feelings that I've been describing to you.
One day I was walking across the grounds of the high school after the bell had rung. Most of the students were already back in class, but I saw a boy coming toward me in the main hall. I knew that his name was Ronny and that he was in his third year of high school. However, I didn't know him very well. Ronny was one of those many students who remain back in the crowd, never calling attention to themselves and never making friends with those around them. It's easy to forget they're alive because they never allow anybody to get acquainted with them.
When Ronny was about 15 feet away from me, I saw that he was very upset about something. It was obvious that he was distressed, because his face revealed his inner turmoil. As he came a few feet closer, he saw that I was watching him intently. Our eyes locked for a moment, then he looked at the floor as he came closer.
When Ronny and I were parallel, he suddenly covered his face with both hands and turned toward the wall. His neck and ears turned red, and he began to sob and weep. He was not just crying-he seemed to explode with emotion. I put my arm around him and said, "Can I help you, Ronny? Do you feel like talking to me?" He nodded affirmatively, and I practically had to lead him into my office.
I offered Ronny a chair and closed the door, and I gave him a few minutes to get control of himself before asking him to speak. Then he began to talk to me.
He said, "I've been going to school in this district for eight years, but in all that time I've never managed to make one single friend! Not one. There's not a soul in this high school who cares whether I live or die. I walk to school by myself and I walk home alone. I don't go to football games; I don't go to basketball games or any school activities because I'm embarrassed to sit there all by myself. I stand alone at snack time in the morning, and I eat lunch out in a quiet corner of the campus. Then I go back to class by myself. I don't get along with my dad, and my mother doesn't understand me, and I fight with my sister. And I have nobody! My phone never rings. I have no one to talk to. Nobody knows what I feel and nobody cares. Sometimes I think I just can't stand it anymore!"
Ronny Is Not Alone
I can't tell you how many students have expressed these same feelings to me. One eighth-grade girl named Charlotte felt so badly about herself and about being unpopular that she didn't want to live anymore. She came to school one day and told me she had taken all the pills that were available in the medicine cabinet in an attempt to do away with herself. But she didn't really want to die, or else she wouldn't have told me what she had done. She was actually calling for help. The school nurse and I got her to the hospital just in time to save her life. Both Charlotte and Ronny are among many thousands of students who are overwhelmed by their own worthlessness, and sometimes this even takes away their desire to live.
Some young people feel inferior and foolish only occasionally, such as when they fail at something very important. But others feel worthless all the time. Maybe you're one of those individuals who hurts every day. Have you ever had that big lump in your throat that comes when you feel that nobody cares-that nobody likes you-that maybe they even hate you? Have you ever wished that you could crawl out of your skin and get into another person's body? Do you ever feel like a complete dummy when you're in a group? Would you ever like to descend into a hole and disappear? If you've ever had those kinds of feelings, I hope you'll finish reading this book, because it's for you! I wish Ronny and Charlotte could have read what I'm writing when they expressed such feelings. I wish they could have recognized their true worth as human beings. They had, you see, driven into the canyon of inferiority and were groping in the darkness below.
Now let's ask a very important question. Why do so many teenagers feel inferior? Why can't young people grow up liking themselves? Why is it common for people to examine themselves and be bitterly disappointed with the person God has made them? Why is it necessary for everyone to bump his head on the same old rock? These are very good questions, and I believe there are good answers to them.
Mother Nature's Damage
As young people grow up in our society today, there are three things that teenagers feel they must have in order to feel good about themselves. The first of these, and by far the most important, is physical attractiveness. Did you know that about 80 percent of the teenagers in our society don't like the way they look? Eighty percent!
If you asked ten teenagers what they are most unhappy about, eight of them would be dissatisfied with some feature of their bodies. They feel ugly and unattractive, and they think about that problem most of the time. They also believe that the opposite sex doesn't like them. The girls feel too tall and the boys feel too short, or they feel too fat or too thin or they're worried about the pimples on their faces or about the freckles on their noses or the color of their hair, or they think their feet are too big or they don't like their fingernails.
No matter how minor the problem is, it can create great anxieties and depression. Most teenagers examine themselves carefully in the mirror to see how much damage has been done by Mother Nature, and they don't like what they see. Since none of us is perfect, they usually find something about themselves that they don't like.
Excerpted from Preparing for Adolescence Group Guide by James C. Dobson Copyright © 2000 by James C. Dobson. Excerpted by permission.
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