Is being a teen really all that hard? On today's broadcast, Richard and Dee Dee Stephens, founders of a mentoring program called Teen Advisors, talk to teens to find out what it's really like being a high school teen these days.
Is being a teen really all that hard? On today's broadcast, Richard and Dee Dee Stephens, founders of a mentoring program called Teen Advisors, talk to teens to find out what it's really like being a high school teen these days.
Teenage Girl: It's not necessarily the scandalous, you know, party sex that's going. There's a lot of sex going on between couples that you don't hear about, and so there's a lot of people – a good more people that are having sex with their boyfriends and girlfriends and whether that's right or not, it's everywhere.
Teenage Girl: All the time we were talking about having sex, we aren't necessarily talking about having intercourse. We're talking about who ought to be the kids that they don't even consider sex, and that's why it's a really big problem because kids do it and they don't think, "Oh, I'm not having sex, so it's okay."
Teenage Boy: As a guy, I long for somebody to love and take care of, and for somebody to know that I love them and take care of them, and when you don't get that from family, you don't get that from friends, you don't get somebody telling you that they're proud of you and they love you, then you look for other people to get that from or to do that to, and so that's where I think a lot of it stems from.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, May 18th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. The truth is, not everyone on the high school campus is doing it, but the pressure and the temptation are causing some convictions to crumble.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition. We try to talk about real life and real issues every day here on our program, but some days when you get into real life and real issues, it's a little uglier and a little more stark than it is other days, and part of the conversation we're going to be listening to today is, well, it's real life but there may be some parents who decide this isn't appropriate for our younger listeners, although your younger listeners are about to face it in a few years when they step into middle school.
Dennis: I'll tell you, Bob, one of the things that I did in my sixth grade Sunday school class every year is I took a little bit of an inventory of the number of issues these young people were confronting, and I want you to think of what you believe the average 16, 17, and 18-year-old confront. Just think for a moment – what do you think they're going to confront at school in terms of language, images, dress, behavior, sex, pornography. Well, you know what? More than likely your 11 or 12-year-old has already confronted much of that same list.
And I think if there has ever been an era in the church when we needed to come alongside our young people, both before adolescence and then all the way through adolescence, it's today. And, fortunately, you and I had a chance to sit down with a couple from Columbus, Georgia, and, in my opinion, these are the kind of heroes in the church, Bob, that cause me to have much hope for the next generation.
Bob: You really do get excited.
Dennis: I do, I do.
Bob: When a lay couple like this, Richard and DeeDee Stephens from Columbus – he's a car dealer, and she's a mom, and they were concerned about what was going on in school with their kids when they were back in school, and they said, "Let's do something about it," and when you hear stories like that, you cheer.
Dennis: I do. I get pumped because, truthfully, there are not enough radio broadcasts like FamilyLife Today and a number of other great broadcasts that are heard on this Christian radio station to make the difference that needs to happen in the next generation of young people who need to become followers of Christ.
Bob: Richard and DeeDee Stephens give leadership to a ministry that they began called "Teen Advisors," where teenagers are enlisted to provide some positive peer pressure in their school and to be available to interact with other students who are facing challenges in their lives, and we got a chance to talk with three of those Teen Advisors, Liz and Kristin and Andy, and they gave us, as you said, Dennis, a very stark look at the reality of what's going on on high school campuses today.
DeeDee: Again, our oldest daughter, Mary Lawson, she was one of the very first Teen Advisors, so this started with just four teenagers. She and her best friend came home, and they were talking in front of me about the things their younger sisters were telling them that were happening in their middle school – sexual pressure that they were getting from boys as seventh graders. And they were worried about that and how young they were, and they were talking about, "Gosh, if we could just sit them down and talk to them and tell them this and tell them that," the other mother and I kind of cooked up this idea, "Why don't we get them into the classroom and let them just talk about their values as far as purity goes."
"Well, how are we going to do that best? Those 12-year-olds aren't going to raise their hands in front of their teachers and ask them the real questions that they want to know the answers to." So we cooked up this really simple idea – we'll see if they'll give us permission to go in, and we'll handout 3x5 notecards to all the kids in the class and tell them to anonymously put down anything that they want to ask older students, old high school students, about physical sexual pressure – dating, kissing, and everything between that and sexual intercourse.
So we did that, they let us do that. We gathered up about 35 notecards …
Dennis: I have to stop you for a second, because there are parents listening to us right now going, "12-year-olds? Questions about sex? Oh, my sweet little 12-year-old? There is no way." Now, I want to tell you something that would have been my opinion had I not taught that sixth grade Sunday school class of 11 and 12-year-olds for 11 years. I was constantly totally blown away by what you all thought about when you were 12 years old.
DeeDee: Well, it wasn't just what they thought about, it was some of the pressure and experiences they were having. Now, realize, our oldest daughter is now 35 years old, so this was back when she was 16, so we're going back quite a few years, and it's certainly escalated since them. But I would say most of the questions that we got were not about – they weren't really dealing with sexual intercourse. I would say the overwhelming question that we got was "My boyfriend is pressuring me to go further than I want to. I'm afraid if I don't do what he wants me to, he'll break up with me. What should I do?"
So it was interesting, the questions that we got, the questions they wanted answers to weren't statistics on STDs or pregnancy rates or – they wanted answers like they would get from their older brothers and sisters. So we sent those four older high school kids in there knowing they didn't need training on what to say. They already knew what to say from their own experience and their own common sense, just like a big brother or a big sister would, and with Teen Advisors, that's what we're trying to do is just – they're not counselors, they're not trained professionals, they're just older students who care.
Bob: And who have made right choices themselves.
DeeDee: Excellent definition of what Teen Advisors are.
Richard: But some of those people who are so influential now didn't always make the right choices, like Andy. And because he lived through that, he was so effective when he decided to turn his life around.
Dennis: What I just want to say to a parent who is listening to this who is kind of picturing, and they're kind of playing their way out – when I first started experiencing this, watching it happen with our young people and putting older kids up in front of them, these older kids would start saying things that I thought, "Oh, my goodness, I don't want my young person hearing that." Well, they were already hearing it. You all are nodding your heads. I mean, what takes place in the halls in junior high and high school is amazing, isn't it? And is it a risk to put a junior or a senior up in front of some younger people? Well, maybe a little bit, but the benefits far outweigh the risk of something wrong they may say, and you may cringe in the back of the room as you hear them say some of those things, but those young people, those younger ones, they're transfixed. They are like radar units glued to those older teens.
DeeDee: That was the amazing thing that day when those four students went in there. Such a simple program – they had 3x5 notecards; they read off the question, and the four of them bounced their answer back and forth. It wasn't scripted; we didn't know what they were going to say, but 45 minutes later we knew something very powerful had taken place.
The eighth graders never raised their hand, they never interrupted and asked anything. The teachers were in the back watching, but they had their total attention. And the other thing that is so incredible to watch, it's such a privilege to watch other people's children stand up in front of a classroom and answer this because their parents would be so proud to hear the wisdom that comes out of these kids' mouths when they have been put into a position of authority.
So here they are, they're going into a classroom, they know "I am responsible for the information I'm going to be giving these younger students who are looking up to me. Not only are they going to hear what I'm going to say in this classroom, but I'm going to continue the whole rest of the year in the school with them, so they will watch that what I say is what I really do."
The wisdom that comes out of their mouth is so good and so wise.
Dennis: I'm telling you, I agree with you. I remember sitting in the back of our class watching something similar happen. Now, we didn't have the formal Teen Advisors like you've established. I think you've taken it way ahead of what we ever did, but as I watched it happen in the back of the class, I watched the parents, and they could not believe what was coming out of the mouths of some of these sophomore, junior, senior, and then there was another benefit that happened at this point. I want you to comment on this, and maybe you all as Teen Advisors can comment – after they've said it, they were on the line to model it.
Richard: That's right.
Dennis: There was some accountability. Did you all feel that when you became Teen Advisors?
Kristin: I did.
DeeDee: They all did.
Bob: Liz, let me ask you, and I'm going to ask you some fairly personal questions here, because we're talking about a fairly personal subject. Do you remember how old you were or the circumstance in which you might have first felt pressured to go farther in a relationship than you were comfortable going?
Liz: Oh, yes. My friends seemed to have problems with drugs and drinking but, for me, issues with boyfriends or just boys, in general, and how far to go with them was one of the biggest things I'd dealt with in high school. It was never …
Bob: Starting when?
Liz: In middle school it started, but it didn't really become a problem until high school.
Bob: I'm wondering if you remember kind of the first time when you were in eighth or ninth grade, and some boy was trying to go places he shouldn't go, and you were faced with some decisions.
Liz: I do remember that in seventh grade I had a boyfriend who wanted to kiss me and do other things with me, and I was not having any of it at all.
Bob: So what did he do and what did you do?
Liz: He just kind of went in for the kiss and I just kind of put my hand up and turned my head away, and I was just like, "No, sir."
Dennis: And what did he do?
Liz: He was a little angry. He was not happy with me at the time.
Bob: And why were you saying, "No, sir?"
Liz: I don't know what was going on in my mind when I was 14 or 13, but I knew that I was just scared. I didn't know what door I was opening when I kissed this boy, and so I definitely did not want to open it until I knew what was going on.
Bob: But it could mean – I mean, if you hold up your hand and say, "No, sir," that might be the end of having that boyfriend.
Liz: That's what I was scared of. I didn't think about it when I said, "No," because I didn't know that it was coming, but after I did it, I remember being mortified and really, really scared that he was going to break up with me.
Dennis: So you didn't feel real secure even after you'd put your hand up?
Liz: No. I think putting my hand up and turning away was kind of a knee-jerk reaction. I think if he had said, "Hey, I'm going to kiss you now," I would have thought it through, and I'd been like, "Well, if I don't kiss him now he's probably going to break up with me, so I'll just go ahead and kiss him."
Dennis: So even though you made the right choice, you were feeling horribly insecure as a 13-year-old.
Dennis: I want parents to hear that because you were raised to hold to the right standards, and even when you make the right choice, it's still tough to stand, isn't it?
Liz: It definitely is. It was very hard.
Bob: Kristin, how about you – back to seventh, eighth grade, is that when this became an issue for you, too?
Kristin: I didn't really deal that much with the pressure of alcohol and drugs. I never really felt the pressure, and I never really had much issues with guys and pressure with guys.
Bob: Did you have a stead boyfriend through high school?
Kristin: No, I had dates here and there, but nothing really steady.
Bob: Do you think that maybe one reason you didn't have anything steady was because you had a positive reputation and guys said, "Why waste your time?"
Kristin: Yeah, I mean, I think I probably got less interest from guys, you know, the cool guys that are the popular guys, because I definitely did have the reputation of being the good girl and things like that.
Bob: Did you ever think to yourself, "I don't like this reputation, and I wish the cool guys would pay a little more attention to me?"
Kristin: Yeah, definitely.
Bob: And were you ever in a situation where you were with a guy, and he put any pressure on you?
Kristin: Honestly, no.
Bob: So you're saying you become a Teen Advisor, and the word's out?
Liz: I think that's completely true. I had this guy that I had a class with, and we talked when we were in class, and we were just talking one night. He IM'd me online or something like that, and we were just talking, and he said, "You know, I always thought that you were really, really innocent in high school, and if I hadn't thought that, I probably would have asked you out." And I was, like, "What do you mean, innocent?" And he just said, "Well, you were a Teen Advisor, and those Teen Advisor girls, you can't get anywhere with them."
Bob: And I'd have asked you out if I'd thought I could have gotten somewhere with you. As you're having that conversation now in college, what do you think?
Liz: When he said it to me, I was, like, "Well, if you had known something that I was dealing with, you would never have thought that," but then I was, like, "But I'm glad you thought that because that's they way I wanted guys to see me. I didn't want pressure from guys to do things that I didn't want to do."
Dennis: What you're really pointing out, though, is that young people going through those teenage years need that positive reputation to go ahead of them, because that really keeps a lot of undesirable choices away from them.
Liz: Definitely. If he had asked me out in high school, I probably would have said "Yes," and when he did actually tell me that, I was kind of, like, "Well, he was kind of cute." I wouldn't have minded going out with him at all.
Kristin: What you just said about having that good reputation go ahead of you that that might deter some of that interest from the wrong type of guy or the wrong crowd, I think that's really true, because I don't remember getting invited to any parties where there was lots of drinking and everything and the most popular people went to, and I didn't – like you said, I didn't really get asked out by the popular guys.
Dennis: Right. You are now a junior in college, and so you've been kind of walking the straight and narrow for a long time. Have you ever – now, tell the truth – have you ever just kind of thought about, you know, "I wonder if the wild side would really be a lot of fun?" You know, "If I could just go blow it all off and just go have a good time?" Have you ever wanted to do that?
Kristin: I guess I'm scared to do that kind of thing or maybe embarrassed or, I don't know, I never really had that strong will to be defiant and a rebel or anything like that.
Dennis: Good for you, good for you. You know, over in Romans it says, "But I want you to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil." And although I know it's probably sounded to you young ladies like it's almost a dirty word to be declared innocent by the opposite sex and therefore it's like, "We couldn't go have fun with you because you're too innocent." That really is a phenomenal word – to be innocent in what is evil. And the interesting thing is, you ask those young men who they want to marry – they want to marry those who are innocent, because they want to share life with someone they can trust.
I want to go to Andy, because he's been sitting over here kind of smugly smiling like we're not going to talk with him about this. Andy, what about you as you faced those temptations since you've decided to turn away from that wild side that you enjoyed your first couple of years in high school?
Andy: Well, it's been real difficult. I mean, like I said, I lost a lot of friends over stuff like that, and I guess the biggest thing that I guess I would say I regret about making that decision was all of the friends that I lost, because there are a lot of people that I really loved that just didn't want to have anything to do with me anymore because – and one of it was, "Oh, you're a Teen Advisor? Oh. Okay. You know, you're going to think that I'm this bad person now because this is what I do, and you don't do that anymore." They thought that I was going to judge them because I was a Teen Advisor, which wouldn't have been the case. It's just they didn't want to have anything to do with me anymore.
But never once since then have I said to myself, "Gosh, I wish I could go do that again. I wish I could live that life again."
Bob: Well, we've been listening together to a panel of young people – Liz and Kristin and Andy, all of whom are Teen Advisors, part of a program that was set up by a couple in Columbus, Georgia, to provide some positive peer pressure to help deal with some of these very real issues that teenagers are facing.
Dennis: And, Bob, provide a wakeup call for any parent today of a teenager.
Bob: I have to tell you, Mary Ann and I were talking just recently about the fact that we're about to launch another one to college. This is our first son who will go to college. It's frightening, as a parent. And when we launched our two girls, we read to them from Philippians, chapter 2, the same passage that you used where it talks about "shining stars in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation," and Mary Ann said to me not long ago, she said, "When we get ready to launch Jimmy," she said, "In addition to Philippians 2 or maybe instead of Philippians 2, we need to read to him from Deuteronomy, chapter 30, where it says, "See, I have set before you today life and prosperity and death and adversity."
And it goes on to say here is the path, and you're going to have to choose all the way through college – do I want life and prosperity or death and adversity? Teenagers are making those kinds of decisions every day.
Dennis: And that's why we, as parents, must be diligent to train our children to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil, and I think the challenge at the end of today's broadcast, Bob, is to crack open one of the best parent training books that has ever been written in history – the Book of Proverbs.
Every parent of a teenager ought to find a way to take their children through the Book of Proverbs one on one at some point before they launch them to college, because what you're talking about, what you and Mary Ann read from in the Book of Deuteronomy, "Choose you this day life or death" – the path that leads to blessing and benefit or the path that leads to personal destruction.
Bob: And some of the choices teenagers are making today are life-and-death choices, literally, life-and-death choices. You and Barbara pointed that out when you wrote your book, "Parenting Today's Adolescent," the traps that have been set out for our teenagers, some of them are deadly traps. When you guys wrote the book, "Parenting Today's Adolescent," you gave us, as parents, a guidebook on how to be alert to these issues and how to be proactive as parents to help steer our children away from these traps before they step in one.
We've got copies of the book, "Parenting Today's Adolescent" in our FamilyLife Resource Center. Go to our website, FamilyLife.com, then click the "Go" button you find in the middle of the screen – click on that, and that will take you to a page where you can get more information about the book, "Parenting Today's Adolescent," about other resources that are available for parents of teens and for parents of preteens. And if you're looking for something to help your teenager stay spiritually strong in the midst of all they're going through, we have a devotional by our friends from Walk Through the Bible, that's called the Youth Walk Devotional – 26 weeks of daily devotions for teens. We want to make that available to you as well.
In fact, any of our listeners who would like to get both your book on "Parenting Today's Adolescent," and the "Youth Walk Devotional," we can send along at no additional cost the CD audio of our discussion with these teenagers this week. That may be something you want to listen to again as a couple or pass along to someone else you know who would benefit by hearing what these teenagers have to say.
Again, our website is FamilyLife.com or call 1-800-358-6329, that's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and we'll let you know how you can get these resources sent out to you.
Some of you have already heard us talk this month about a rather unique opportunity that was made available to us during the month of May. We had some friends of the ministry who came and said "We want to encourage FamilyLife listeners to make a donation to your ministry, and here is how we want to do that. We will agree to match every donation that you receive in May on a dollar-for-dollar basis up to a total of $350,000. Just recently we had another friend of the ministry come and say, "I'd like to boost the offer a little bit. I will add an extra $25,000 to that goal," and that pushes the total now up to $375,000 that's available to us in a matching gift if we are able to hear from enough listeners during May to meet that match.
So we wanted to let you know about the new development and also encourage you if there is any way possible for you to make a donation this month, that donation would be, effectively, doubled. You can donate online, if you'd like, at FamilyLife.com or you can call us at 1-800-FLTODAY to make a donation. Either way, we want to say thanks in advance for your financial support and especially this month as we try to take full advantage of this new matching gift opportunity up to a total of $375,000. We appreciate you standing with us, and we hope to hear from you.
Well, tomorrow our teen panel is going to be back, and we're going to hear from them about a troubling trend on many high school campuses today – high school students are beginning to ask themselves the question – is it possible that I'm gay or maybe bisexual? We're going to hear about that trend tomorrow, and I hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.
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