One of the most important things I'm learning about being the parent of teens is the importance of continual communication. Thankfully, early in our marriage, Jason and I knew that we needed to work on this, and God brought into our lives people and opportunities to learn better communication. That has carried over into our parenting, and we enjoy good communication with our children.
Sometimes families really struggle with communication and occasionally, even families with good communication need help introducing and discussing difficult topics. The Hot Buttons books by Nicole O'Dell, published by Kregel Publications, are a good resource for stimulating conversation. I've reviewed a few of these before, and this time I was able to review Hot Buttons: Bullying Edition and Hot Buttons: Image Edition.
The books all have a similar set up. They are written for parents to share with their tweens and teens. The books begin with information for parents. First, the why?, when?, and how? of the topic is explored. Then the second section takes a look at five of the hot button issues that are related to the topic. The third section talks about praying for your children and your conversation and then give scenarios to read and discuss with your child. The last section, called the "Parent-Teen Study Guide" gives ideas for confession, forgiveness, and starting over with a clean slate.
Much of the information in the first section and the last section is all the same for all of the books- or for all of the ones I've read as yet.
The why?, when?, and how? all discuss why it's important to discuss the topic with your children; when to bring up the topic (She always recommends not waiting too late.); and how to bring up the conversation.
The second section changes from book to book. O'Dell takes a look at five of the hot button issues surrounding the topic. In the Bullying Edition, she looks at being a victim, cliques and groups, cyberbullying, self-harm, and being the bully. The Image Edition takes a look at popularity, self-esteem, body image, eating disorders, and celebrities.
The first part of the third section is the same in every book. O'Dell gives practical advice for discussing these topics with your children as well as living what you say, being an example. Then she leads parents to symbolically put on the armor of God through prayer in preparation for talking with teens.
The next part of the third section is the real "meat" of the book in my opinion. In this section, O'Dell gives scenarios that parents are to read with their children. The scenarios deal with the hot button issues and present a story and a question and then several possible "answers". Parents are to read the story, let the teen choose and answer and then discuss why they chose that answer. These scenarios can lead parents and teens to some in depth conversations about the hot button issues.
The last part of the book, also the same in every book, is the "study guide."It walks parents and teens through the confession and forgiveness that may be needed already in these issues, and it guides both into starting over with a clean slate.
Nicole O'Dell has really been able to focus in on some of the important issues facing teens. The books are formulaic, but present the information to parents in an easy to understand, straight forward manner.
Reading the sections in the books that are always the same seemed repetitive to me. I know the books were made to stand alone, so some parents may read one book without having read others. But, because I've read a few now, these parts were something I found myself just skimming over.
I really like the ideas of the scenarios to stimulate discussion between parents and teens. I've always liked the "what if" game with my kids. Even when they were very little, I would play it with them. "You are going to your friend's birthday party. His mom passes out worms to eat (I would pick the grossest thing I could think of.), what do you say?" Nicole O'Dell's scenarios are more thought out about more important issues, but the idea is the same. By presenting something that could happen, you have the opportunity to talk with kids and help them think it through before something similar does happen to them.
I did notice that some of the scenarios in the books seemed a little far fetched this time. It seems as if the previous books' scenarios were a little more believable. I just wasn't as impressed with the stories or the given choices in these two books.
All in all, the series is good for helping parent to be aware of current teen issues and for giving parents and teens a way to discuss these issues.
Disclosure: I received a free copy of these books from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.