The author, founder and director of Heartlight Ministries in Hallsville, TX, a Christian oriented residential program for adolescents in crisis, drew on his 30 plus years of working with youth and families in crisis to write this book. From that experience, he has developed a system for helping children work through their pain. What's more important, his advice has helped many parents become more effective in helping their children so that often residential placement is no longer needed.
This book is obviously a Christian-based guide; every aspect of his advice is biblically based. However, as one reviewer pointed out, even if every reference to Christianity and the Bible is removed, the book would still stand as an effective approach solidly based on accepted principles of effective work with families with a teen in crisis.
Chapter by Chapter, the author goes through the various aspects of how some children think and act and what parents need to keep in mind. First is to not give up hope, but trust that there is a solution somewhere, and somehow, for without hope parents could never do what they need to do. Next is the importance of wisdom and understanding on the part of the parents. It is vital to understand that the objectionable behavior is a symptom of something, and the sooner a parent figures out what it is a symptom of, the sooner healing can begin. It continues in this vein for another 13 chapters, each easy to read and to grasp the basic ideas.
The book is an easy and relatively quick read. Part of it is the obvious empathy the author has for the children and the parents he describes and the suffering they are going through and bringing on themselves. But the gripping part is his use of what you might call case studies. Each chapter describes an important aspect of which parents must be aware and then proceeds to describe children whose experience are good examples of what the author is talking about. In his description, both the child and parents become real people with understandable problems. After reading the descriptions, it is very clear what the author is describing in that chapter and how the abstract concept can play out in real life.
Then, in the last chapter, he gathers all the loose threads together. Titled "Where Are They Now?" he describes their lives currently. Most of the updates are heartwarming. The girl who was angry, running away, heavily into the drug culture, estranged from her parents with a clouded future is now happily married with wonderful children, successful in business and has a great relationship with her parents. Or, the boy who was a recluse with an enabling mother is now succeeding in a college dorm and dating an extrovert girl. Unfortunately, just as in real life, not all the stories are positive. Sometimes no amount of intervention will work with some children. One girl 12 years later was still homeless, wandering the country looking for something that probably doesn't exist and thus she will never find. Another just dropped out of sight after intervention and nobody that had been in his life, including his parents, have heard from him for years.
This book is well worth the investment of the couple hours it takes to read it, and well worth the time to study it closer and think through how it applies.