Some issues are so sensitive, controversial, confusing, and potentially life-changing that youth culture expert Nicole O’Dell calls them Hot Button topics.
She has written the Hot Buttons books to help parents talk to their teens about hot button issues like image and many more. How I wish I had had these books years ago!
Image is an important Hot Button topic because “Too many people overvalue what they are not and undervalue what they are,” as Malcolm S. Forbes pointed out.
In the preface to Image, Nicole writes
So much about choices and the power to make good ones comes from self-confidence. How a person feels about appearance, self-worth, social status, and everything else that contributes to one’s self-image significantly impacts daily choices.
Now, this should not be true; we should find our self-worth completely in God. However, the fact of the matter is that the above quotation is true for many people, and especially for the young. Therefore Nicole suggests parents should work with their teens and tweens to do the necessary prep work before image issues become a serious problem.
I agree in one sense, but talking about anorexia and celebrity influence with my tween would be foolish. I would be putting ideas into her head. On the other hand, I should perhaps discuss some of these issues with my teens so that they don’t make mistakes out of simple lack of knowledge and preparation, but there’s a fine line between putting ideas into their heads and preparing them.
Nicole points out we as parents also need to be prepared, watchful, and proactive. The solution is not to insulate our children from the world (and here’s where a classical education, challenging as it may be, comes in handy), but to fill their lives God’s Word and with wholesome rather than negative activities. Our purpose is “to safeguard our kids from the wiles of the enemy who whispers lies into their young, eager minds.” We need to pray, be approachable, speak the truth with love, and deal with our own issues.
In Hot Buttons: Image Edition Nicole deals with popularity, self-esteem, body image, eating disorders, celebrities, and the media, each in detail, with personal stories, tips, and encouragement. By the time I finished this section, I was pretty overwhelmed.
Then, however, the book gets really practical. “There are five aspects to fighting the image battle (and all the parenting battles) in our teens’ lives: time, communication, example, consistency, prayer,” writes Nicole. She then gives practical recommendations and walks the reader through putting on the armor of God. Because, although we often forget it, in all hot button issues we’re fighting against an enemy who seeks to destroy in any way he can, and we cannot fight him on our own.
In the next section she walks parents through 15 “Strategic Scenarios” that they can share and discuss with their children. Some of these stories are about boy-girl relationships, some about clothing, some about friends, and all, in some way, are about image. Each one comes with a list of possible responses and discussion points.
Finally, Nicole has prepared a discussion of confession and forgiveness for both parents and teens, complete with a guide to welcoming Jesus into your life, prayers, and applications for both ages.
Am I planning to work through this book with my teens? I’m still not sure. As homeschoolers with an incredible group of friends, my kids currently don’t face many of these issues in a dangerous way, although I’m sure they are present in a mild form. So probably we will not go through it formally. Besides, that’s just not our style.
However, after reading this book I’m certainly more aware of image issues, and I will look for opportunities to weave these topics into our conversations. The image-issues preparation I will continue to do with my children is to love them, to keep them from filling their minds with unrealistic media expectations, expose them to the truth of God’s Word and all that it means, and help them find their interests in life so that they have a goal and a calling.
On the other hand, as an experienced mom who has made significant mistakes, I’ve discovered that I need to lay the ground work for myself, alerting myself to red flags and thinking through issues ahead of time. As Nicole points out, danger signs can be subtle and they often require immediate attention. Woe to the parents who miss them! This book can help with that.
Even if you do not choose to work through this book formally with your teens, it is a good idea to deeply understand the many aspects of image issues, and this book provides a lot of insight. It is certainly worth getting for a community, church, or homeschool library and probably even for your home.
The bottom line is that you as a parent do want to read Hot Buttons: Image Edition.
Note that my review of Hot Buttons: Bullying Edition will be posted in a day or two, and it is closely related to the Image Edition.
One negative point: Hot Buttons: Image Edition, has an unusual square shape and many colors and font changes. I know that is supposed to make a book more readable, but I find it distracting.
Disclosure: This book has been provided by Kregel for the purpose of this review; the review represents my own honest opinions.