Ed Drew, Raising Confident Kids in a Confusing World: A Parent’s Guide to Grounding Identity in Christ (The Good Book Company, 2023)
When a six-year-old child in our church recently brought home a reading book about a same-sex marriage ceremony, her parents were surprised. What should they say? How much should they say?
The majority of my teenage daughter’s friends are struggling with their gender identity and sexuality. Daily, she is faced with their pain and struggle. How can I help her respond to this?
Children today are growing up in a challenging world. Parents and carers often feel ill-equipped. Ed Drew has written this book primarily to help parents, but it should be essential reading for pastors, church leaders, and anyone with an interest in the spiritual health of the next generation in our churches.
Ed Drew has written this book primarily to help parents, but it should be essential reading for pastors, church leaders, and anyone with an interest in the spiritual health of the next generation.
In the first half of the book, Ed gently explains how to build a gospel foundation for parenting: he takes readers through chapters such as ‘I Am Precious’ and ‘I Know What to Do When I Am Not OK’ before addressing issues of sexuality and gender. By reading these early chapters and making good use of the questions at the end of each chapter, readers allow Ed to build their confidence before tackling ‘the hard stuff’ together.
Ed is keen that we remember these areas are only part of our parenting, which is why this is not a book specifically about sexuality or gender, but about identity. Ed ministers to the hearts of parents first, helping them embrace their God-given responsibilities and see that intentional gospel-parenting is worth the pain and the effort. He calls on churches to be places where parents are encouraged and equipped, and urges parents to seek out older, godly Christians for support and advice. Although some content is more suited to parenting younger children, if you are a parent of teenagers, you will still want to read this book; there is plenty here that will help you navigate the later years of parenting.
Ed writes warmly, with humour and compassion – I found myself crying and laughing in the same chapter! He knows that parenting is hard, but he also believes it really matters. Ed encourages us to take opportunities for frequent, low-key conversations, providing plenty of illustrations to help us know how, in a range of contexts and with different ages.
Towards the end of the book, three chapters address specific issues of identity. In ‘I Am Wonderfully Made’, Ed examines what culture and the Bible say about sex and our bodies, including puberty, pornography, and masturbation. Ed urges parents to embrace the awkwardness and be the ones talking to their children about these important topics. ‘Someone will be teaching your kids … make sure it’s you’ (p.121).
In ‘Friendships, Sex and Marriage’, Ed helps readers think widely about the importance of friendship. Discussion of singleness, marriage, and sexuality is set within the biblical framework of the ‘better story’ of marriage.
In ‘Boys, Girls and Gender’, Ed examines biblical truth, along with historical and cultural trends. He discusses gender characteristics and stereotyping, and the difference between biological sex and the current cultural phenomenon of gender identity is clearly and helpfully explained. Then Ed once again points us to the One who is unchanging in the storm and turbulence of our children’s lives, giving us confidence to speak God’s truth into the prevailing culture:
‘We can be certain that, as with all issues, Jesus Christ is enough for us, that the Bible offers us all the wisdom we need, and that his Spirit is at work as we listen, pray and talk through the concerns. We know our children best, so we’re the right people to navigate through this with them’ (p.157).
These are introductory chapters to complex issues; don’t expect to have all your parenting questions related to sexuality and gender answered. For example, some readers may have wanted more on how to help teenagers support unbelieving friends who are exploring sexuality and gender. Others may have wanted Ed to further help them hear the struggles of the lived experience. Some recommended reading would have been helpful. But what Ed does so well is gives parents a recognition of their role, buckets of encouragement and some broad principles. Ed is speaking to the parent who lacks confidence, who feels nervous and overwhelmed – if that is you, read this book! And if you know and love children or parents in your church, then read it too: talk with children and parents, pray with and for them; they will thank you for doing so.