Friday, December 9, 2011

The Stranger In Your House: A Book Review

About The Book:

Best-selling author Dr. Gregory L. Jantz offers hope and help for parents of teens. 

Adolescence is a frightening and complicated time - for teens and parents. Keeping the roller coaster of the teen years on track takes work and wisdom. Many parents simply don't know where to start. With Dr. Jantz's help they can stop worrying about the turbulence of adolescence and take action. With included resources, reflection questions, and guidance from a Christian perspective, parents learn how to become a port in the storm for their teenager, discovering the God-designed future and promise that awaits.

About The Author:

Dr. Gregg Jantz is the best-selling author of numerous books, including Hope, Help, and Healing for Eating Disorders. He is the founder of The Center for Counseling and Health Resources, a leading healthcare facility near Seattle that specializes in whole-person care.

An Interview with Dr. Gregg Jantz, Author of The Stranger in Your House

Q:  What percentage of adolescents deal with clinical depression?

According to, up to 20% of teenagers suffer from depression.

Q:  Depression was not an issue that was discussed 30 years ago.  Do you believe that it is more prominent in today’s society, and why do you think there are so many teenagers struggling with it?

Much more attention is being given today to teenagers from a medical/pharmaceutical perspective.  With the introduction of adult anti-depressants to teenagers, healthcare professionals are more cognizant of teens and depression.  I believe the increase in teen depression is not so much from the teens themselves but from the adults around them paying more attention and becoming more alarmed by behavior that was previously dismissed as just a teenage “phase.”  As more adults (physicians, parents, educators) come to understand the symptoms and signs of depression for themselves and for teenagers, there are simply more people watching and sounding the alarm on behalf of troubled teens.

Q:  How can parents know if their child’s behavior reflects him/her “just being a teen” or if it’s something more serious?  What are some of the signs of deeper emotional issues?

Teens don’t always exhibit the same depression symptoms as adults, so you need to know what to watch for:
·         Poor performance in school
·         Withdrawal from friends and activities
·         Sadness and hopelessness
·         Lack of enthusiasm, energy or motivation
·         Anger and rage
·         Overreaction to criticism
·         Feelings of being unable to satisfy ideals
·         Poor self-esteem or guilt
·         Indecision, lack of concentration or forgetfulness
·         Restlessness and agitation
·         Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
·         Substance abuse
·         Problems with authority
·         Suicidal thoughts or actions
·         In an attempt to alleviate depression, teens may also become sexually promiscuous, engaging in risk-taking behavior. 

Q:  What causes teens to be overly emotional?  What part do hormones play in their behavior?

Teenagers deal with an influx of sex hormones that motivate behavior.  In addition to that, their capacity for critical thinking, executive reasoning and problem-solving may not yet be fully developed.  Emotional escalation because of hormonal stresses and not being able to articulate, communicate or understand the source of these feelings can lead to feelings of frustration, irritation and anger.  Teenagers are definitely packages that need to labeled “Handle with Care.”

Q:  What do teens need most from their parents?
  • Understanding—They’ve got a lot going on emotionally, relationally and physically.  Expecting a teenager to act like a “young adult” isn’t always realistic.
  • Space—Part of the adolescent process is learning how to handle emotions, people and situations on their own.  A smothered teen is not a healthy, growing one.
  • Not too much space—Teens have a way of putting up the “do not enter” sign on their lives, but parents need to stay actively involved and aware of what’s going on with their teenager.  This doesn’t need to be an overt, in-your-face interrogation but rather a subtle, observant, alert process.  Teens that have firmly locked their front doors may be accessible through the back door of parental accessibility, calmness and care.
  • Boundaries—Teens may resist and resent the boundaries you set but they also may count on them.  Teens may not like boundaries, but they need them as long as they make sense, are backed up with reasons and are calmly, assertively presented.  It’s still your house, your rules—teens get that.  For all their talk, most are not ready to make any changes to that set-up, at least until they graduate from high school.
  • Relationship—You may be two seconds from pitching that kid out the door but make sure to keep that opinion to yourself.  Maintain your parental relationship with your teenager, even when it doesn’t seem like he or she is keeping up their end of the deal.  Keep being the parent.
Q:  If a parent feels that their child is struggling with these issues, where can they turn for help?

One of the first places depression shows up is in the teenager’s school work or school relationships.  Touching base with teachers and/or counselors can give parents a different perspective and a validation of what they’re seeing or feeling.  If the adults surrounding that teen are all seeing similar signs, it’s time to meet with a professional.  If there’s one available in the school setting, this can be a good start for evaluation.  School is a teen’s turf and they’re more likely to meet with someone there than in a stranger’s office with music playing from the ceiling and fish tanks on the wall.

When looking for a counselor, choose one that has experience and a proven track record working with adolescents.  Your teen isn’t going to open up on command.  He or she needs to connect with the counselor and you can’t always predetermine who that person will be.  You need to be prepared to try out several.  Don’t give up and keep searching until you find someone who clicks with your kid.  Once you’ve got a counselor, be prepared to follow that person’s recommendations, whether it’s family counseling or a medical exam or a chemical dependency evaluation or tutoring help for school.  If you’re trying to get off as cheaply as possible, with as little effort as possible, chances are high you’re going to short-change your teenager’s recovery.

My Review:

This is a must-have resource for all parents of tweens, teens and young adults. It is not only loaded with a lot of clinical information about depression, eating disorders, cutting, suicide and other issues that tend to be experienced by many teens. The book has fantastic discussion questions, perfect for parenting classes, youth ministry training, and even for having discussions between teens and their parents. The statistics given are all very recent, as are the topics talked about. You will be given a lot of checklists to use for future reference and learn when it is important to reach out for professional help and when to let behaviors "run their course". 

Very well organized and written, When Your Teenager Becomes....The Stranger In Your House is a book I HIGHLY recommend ALL parents, teachers, and youth ministry staff read and keep as a resource!

I give this book a huge thumbs up!

BUY IT: You can purchase The Stranger In Your House at your favorite bookseller from David C. Cook

***I received a complimentary copy of this book, courtesy of The B and B Media Group and David C. Cook, for the purpose of review on this blog. All opinions expressed are my own, and I have not been compensated in any other manner***

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