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Book review: Parenting Teens for a Life of Faith: Helping teens meet and know God by Rachel Turner

23 June 2023

Dennis Richards on the raising of teenagers

THIS book is intended for families in which parents have a settled “position” on their personal commitment of faith, coupled with a firm church affiliation, and an aspiration to take their children along the same journey. Conscious that some may see this approach as a form of brainwashing, the author establishes from an early stage the concept of parents as “fellow travellers”, also on a journey and ready to share with their children the ups and downs of the Christian life. It is far more important to be “authentic” than to strive to be “perfect” and invariably fail. As a parent, you are simply a more experienced traveller, who by virtue of age and experience is further along the track. It is most unlikely, anyway, that anxious parents will be able to create an identikit version of themselves in their children.

There are interesting tips for engaging in debate with older children, nevertheless being aware also that younger children can ask the most searching of questions. “If God made everything, why did he make germs?” is a familiar example. In the case of my daughter, it was nettles, given that, aged five, she fell into a bed of them. It didn’t seem the right moment to preach to her about Job and his stoicism.

I did like the author’s vivid “surfing” metaphor. Parents’ primary function is to enable their children to face the unpredictable waves of life. That section works well. I am less convinced by the six-point plan based on being a good supporter of a football team. It seems risky to me, especially as Rachel Turner bases the analogy on our local team, Leeds United. Sadly, they seem to be prone fairly regularly to relegation.

She is on firmer ground in her conclusions. There is little point in parents’ striving to pass on their faith; the proper task is to equip children with the means to find their own. Parents who have reached the other side of their children’s adolescence can take some comfort there, even if they no longer support Leeds United.

Dennis Richards is a former head of St Aidan’s C of E High School, Harrogate, North Yorkshire.

Parenting Teens for a Life of Faith: Helping teens meet and know God
Rachel Turner
BRF £9.99
Church Times Bookshop £8.99

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