How to Help Our Kids Stand Secure When Body Image Issues Surface

K-W-3033One recent evening I was sitting in the living room with my laptop doing some research for an upcoming talk. But with all the laughter coming from the backyard, I was having a hard time focusing. From my chair I could see my twelve-year-old son and his friends – another boy and a couple girls – in the pool and became transfixed.

As I watched, they moved from playing Sharks & Minnows to trying to tip each other out of the raft to Categories. When my son jumped out of the pool to take his turn calling out the category, I couldn’t help but chuckle at how cute he looked to me. Unlike his fourteen-year-old muscular brother, his body is still soft and round. And he had on goggles and the biggest, goofiest grin.

I realized then they all had their goggles on, despite face masks not being anyones’ best look.  But at this point my son was totally uninihbited by what he looked like or why his appearance would even matter to his friends.  He was just focused on having fun and from what I could tell the same could be said of the others, too.

But I know this won’t be the case for much longer for these rising middle schoolers. Over the course of this school year, sadly they will become much more body conscience and concerned about what other think about them.

Ironically, the topic of social media’s effect on body image, self-worth and eating disorders was just what I was researching that evening. Maybe having this topic on my mind is the reason I even noticed how refreshing it was to see these kids on the cusp of their teen years being silly and unworried about their appearances. But after having already seen with my older two how quickly things change, I am not naive about what’s coming.

In fact, the teen survey I conducted shed light on just how often alcohol, drugs, eating disorders, cutting, burning, sexual immorality and depression, among other issues, become the coping mechanisms for dealing with insecurities, stress and not measuring up. I don’t say this to scare parents about the teen years but to emphasize the importance of talking to our kids about their true identity and worth.

Telling our kids how great we think they are will only go so far. What they need to hear is how great Jesus is for them! To be told of the One who left his throne in heaven to experience all the suffering, sadness and sin of this world in order to identify with us. But he didn’t stop there. By living the perfect life we can not, he shed his identity and took on ours. He became sin in order to bestow us with His righteousness. Because of this great love we can stand eternally secure as Sons and Daughters of the King.

When this is not the identity our kids know, they will try to find their identity in a million other ways.  Through idols that say they need more “likes” and “followers” on social media. Or, that they must dress a certain way or acquire more material goods so they look better.  Idolatry that lead them to elevate themselves, tear others down or exclude even friends so they get the most attention and therefore feel better about themselves.

In the future when my son realizes he is not as muscular as the next guy or when someone makes fun of him for having acne or for something he says, the only thing that will keep him present – enjoying having fun with this friends and not consumed with how he looks or is perceived by others – will be if he knows his secure standing in the love of Christ. 

The story of Jesus is the gospel applied to all of life and what they must hear to get their story straight. It is the only place to discover the real solution to struggles with body image and worth. Anything else falls short of the true security they are looking for and need.

Finally Coming: My Book for Teens…BOOKS, that is!

For a few weeks I’ve been sitting on some news. Not sure why or what I’ve been waiting for, but today I thought I would fill you in on some happenings at the House of Hatton.

Many of you know I have been in the book writing and publishing process for awhile now. For those who don’t know – I’ve written a teen devotional book, for both girls and guys, being published by New Growth Press, called Get Your Story Straight: A Guide to Learning and Living the Gospel! If you click the link you’ll see its already up on Amazon and can be PRE-ORDERED!FullSizeRender

Though the journey of waiting, writing and editing has been long, seeing it on Amazon and finally having a release date is amazing! October 12th is the day!

Since this whole process is new to me, I continue to learn alot as I go.  What is very clear though is the truth of the gospel I so passionately want teens to hear can’t happen without your help!  

As a first-time author, I especially need people who will spread the news of this book through social media, sharing my blog posts, writing Amazon reviews and asking your church or youth ministries to pre-order books in bulk, host book signings or speaking engagement for me. And starting now is not too early.

Will you partner with me in this way? For the sake of our teens?

Teens need to understand how the gospel applies to all of life. They need to see how Jesus is life. There is a disconnect between believing the gospel and really believing what that means practically in very specific situations. There is also a void in books for teenagers focused on deep issues of the heart. Most simply skim the surface of topics teens face, but don’t adequately apply the gospel as the only true and lasting solution.

This is the reason for this book and you can be certain you will hear lots more about it in the coming months. Hand in hand with this is the other part of my exciting news… In February I submitted a new book proposal and have recently been offered a contract on it!

This second book will be specific to teen girls and related to the Teen Survey some of you may have helped circulate or remember reading about in my post: Behind the Scenes of a Selfie Society for a Teen.  Actually, I still need your help getting it out. I need hundreds more surveys back. Would you please share the link below with teens and/or youth pastors/leaders who can send this out to more teens? 

This will be so helpful in collecting research to be used in my next manuscript. The purpose for it is to help teen girls find their true worth and identity in Jesus. In our social media age, the struggle for acceptance, approval, of measuring up, performing well, popularity and the like has only intesified.  And, issues such as eating disorders, stress and depression among teens is at an all-time high. Parents often don’t know how to deal with the problems or even know what is going on in the mind of their teen who may be secretly comparing themselves to everyone around them while sinking into a dark emotional and spiritual place.

The only answer is Jesus.

I don’t mean this in a Sunday school answer kind of way, but truly unless our identity is found in Christ, we will continue turning to other things to give us worth or make us feel okay. This is true of all of us, not just teens. But how much better life will be for our teen girls if they come to know and rest in their identity, firmly rooted in Him, nowI wish this book was out on the market currently, but by God’s grace He will give me the time and the words as I work to get it submitted by August.

I could not be more excited about the opportunity to author two books – something I never even would’ve dreamt of. But both of these have been born out of a growing passion for teens, my personal experience as a mom and Bible study teacher for teens and the void in gospel-centered teaching and material available to them.

Thank you for following me and reading what I have to say. Thank you for encouraging me and thank you in advance for helping me any way you can to share the word of these books and circulate the survey! Look forward to hearing from you!

Survey link to share with any teen you know: http://www.surveyface.com/study/Behind-the-Scenes-of-a-Selfie-Society-for-a-Teen-15022.php?l=y

A Needed Perspective when your Child Faces Try-outs or Election

‘Tis the season for many middle school and high school kids to try out or run for next year’s squad, Student Council or the like. It’s agonizing – and not just for them!

This was our week this week, times two.

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During the first part of the week, my daughter ran for a school-wide Student Council officer position that she did not win. Because of the loss, she had to turn around and run for a Senior Senator spot the following days. This made for one long, stressful week with lots of talk, analyzing and prayer. 

Both races I wanted badly for her – something good, something to look forward to, something to reassure her and give her purpose. Yet at the same time I knew neither position could ultimately fulfill or make all things right. Only – it sure is alot easier to keep that in perspective after (or when) things go the way we want. FullSizeRender

The truth is even if our kids get what they try out or run for, we must help them see “life” is not found in these things and their identity is tied to something so much greater.  (For that matter, we must see this for oursevles, as many parents try to find their identity wrapped up in who their kids are!)

Whether are kids are on a varsity squad, any squad or no squad, a Student Council officer, represenative or not involved, popular or could care less, straight-A student or barely hanging on, turn heads with their beauty or just blend in, none of this is who they are at their core.  And none of this makes anyone more or less important than others.  

If we live as if these things are “life,” we will constantly be striving to measure up and looking for something to make us okay. We will be crushed in defeat and prideful in our accomplishments. But, if our true identity and unchanging value is found in Jesus, nothing can shake our security.

Jesus bore the suffering, humiliation and pain of death on a cross and thought it nothing in comparison to the joy of reconciling his children to the Father. He literally became sin, so we could have his righteousness. We therefore live under the smile of God and not his condemnation.  He views us as perfect, because Jesus was perfect for us.

This is how great his love for his children is and this is where our most true and secure identity lies. This is the doctrine of justification and why theology matters.

When we know our standing before God does not change, when we know his love and acceptance, when we know he is “life,” than we can stand secure when things don’t turn out how we want, when we face disappointments and rejection. 

So when my child loses an election, she finds assurance knowing because God has accepted her and declared her perfect, she is not a loser or failure. And, when my child wins an election, she can take no pride in her own performance or view herself as better than those who didn’t succeed because it is Jesus’ perfect performance for us that defines us.

Who he says we are – treasured, loved, accepted, included, significant, wonderfully and fearfully made – is who we are.

We need to understand the everyday implications of this truth and by God’s grace live out of its reality. This is the foundation and comfort as parents we need to give our children. This is how we help them be okay with who they are and where God has them.

It’s not easy to rest in his truth and love when other things seem so much more tangible. But, nothing else can give as secure an identity as knowing the God of the universe who created us and cast his love upon us sings his praises over us! Only in our titles as “Sons and Daughters of the King” do we have a stable and secure identity that will not shatter, no matter what. images-1