"The teenage years are nothing if not a roller coaster—high highs, low lows… When so many things are uncertain, they push, prod and test to see if you are certain, if you are stable, if you will hold."
Josh Shipp admits to being a hard to handle teen in foster care. He had “mastered the art” of getting kicked out of foster homes, but his life changed due to a caring adult who wouldn’t give up on him. Josh has become an advocate for teens and those who love them. His new book, The Grown-Up’s Guide to Teenage Humans releases September 19, 2017.
The Grown-Up’s Guide to Teenage Humans
The teen years are confusing for everyone—for parents and teens. Josh credits his foster father, Rodney—his “one caring adult”—for hanging in there during this turbulent time in his own life.
Josh’s book, The Grown-Up’s Guide to Teenage Humans is a tool to help parents understand their teens. The book provides information to decode behavior, develop unshakable trust and, ultimately, raise a respectable adult. These are things Josh learned from Rodney, and learned from research, experts and interviewing others.
Ninety-nine percent of parents, teachers, caring adults want to make a difference, want to be that catalytic adult—earnest desire is not the problem. Two things can be lacking: hope and practical solutions. These are what Josh attempts to provide in the book.
“If Rodney had any sort of superpower, it was his ability to not grade how good a parent he was based on the words coming out of my mouth and how I treated him.”
The teenage years can be full of cues that seem to push parents away—and it’s hard to not take that personally. Rodney met with other parents of teens to hang out and simply get perspective and have a healthy outlet for sharing complaints, stories and points of pride with people who would understand. It provided perspective that “you’re not alone, you’re not insane, your kid is not insane…in fact, your kid is normal.” Rodney knew that his parenting skills were not measured against Josh’s actions, and even more importantly, he knew that other parents of teens were likely to be going through similar issues.
The book is divided into two sections, the first of which are stories of the effect one caring adult has in the lives of teens—to give hope to parents of teens. The other section is full of super practical strategies for surviving the teen years—based on research with experts. It’s like cookbook recipes for dealing with common challenges. For each topic or challenge, there is information about how to think about it, what to say and how to start a conversation, how your teen is likely to react, and practical steps to take.
“These strategies will work for teachers, parents, foster parents—anyone who works with teens,” says Josh. And it will help anyone become the “one caring adult” for someone.
Josh has three kids in his life—his children, who are younger 6 and 8, and a 17-year-old mentee. “Every week I see him—we’re hanging out, we’re having these conversations. Sometimes he’s super receptive, sometimes I’m super repellant. So I know this challenge.” Rodney probably said the “you are not a problem, but an opportunity” maybe 50 times. But Josh wasn’t ready to hear it. “The receptiveness of the message has nothing to do with the messenger—but the listener.” The teen years are hard for everybody…it’s a challenge for everybody.
Thinking about the teenage years is like a roller coaster—the lap bar is like the rules and stamina of the parents; teens will test it—push, pull, prod to see if you are stable and sure. “The teenage years are nothing if not a roller coaster—high highs, low lows. When so many things are uncertain, they push, prod and test to see if you are certain, if you are stable, if you will hold.”
Ultimately, when it comes to parenting teens, “we’ve all got our weaknesses; we’ve all got our blind spots,” Josh says. His is control—it will always be a challenge for him. HE has to be self-aware and humble for when that trigger comes up. Like other triggers, it’s easy to get scared and feel inadequate. The book is designed to help parents feel prepared for the roller coaster of the teen years—not scared and inadequate.
Thanking Rodney and Others
Josh recognizes three specific adults who cared—Rodney, Mrs. Wilhite, his Spanish teacher who saw his ability to communicate (by being the class clown) and suggested he become part of the speech and debate team and Mr. Andrews, another teacher who saw potential in him in spite of his mischievousness. “But for them, I’d be dead, in jail or homeless,” says Josh. He thanked them publicly by buying billboards in Yukon, Oklahoma. The book is to pass on their lessons—what Josh learned from them.
Josh challenges and encourages people to reach out to their “Rodney”—their caring adult—to thank them for the effect they’ve had in your life. You don’t have to get a billboard, just thank them for their impact.
Rodney, my man. Thank you for not giving up on me. Thank you for, though I gave you a thousand reasons why, and a thousand reasons why you could have, you didn’t. In the moment, I certainly didn’t show my appreciation or my gratitude. But everything I do, everyone I impact—everyone I have a chance to communicate with, is because of you. This is all your fault, Rodney. Thank you so much.
Hopefully, this episode has helped you right where you are on your foster care journey. That’s the goal. If you enjoyed it, will you tell others?
The best way to do that is to rate the podcast on Apple Podcasts and leave us a brief review! Your ratings and reviews help us get this podcast in front of new listeners. Your feedback also lets us know how we can better serve you. Thank you so much!
Meet Our Guest
Josh Shipp is a former at-risk foster kid who now speaks to teens, parents, educators and mental health experts in order to help as many young people as possible. He trains aspiring speakers and has a popular online mentoring programs for teens as well as a free newsletter that offers strategies to parents, educators and youth workers. Josh and his family live in California.
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