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Getting the Help You Need, When You Need It

I recently received a letter from a mom and dad who attended one of our Family in Crisis retreats last year.  I was touched and excited about the amazing changes that had occurred in this family’s life, and I wanted to share it with you.  They, like most families caught in crisis situations, found their family in a downward spiral after raising the kids in a godly home.  Things went well for most of their kids; not so well for one of their daughters.  This is how they described the situation in the letter:

“At that time we probably fit 10 out of 10 of the most critical warning signs that things had really gone awry in our family.  Our 15-year-old daughter seemed to be in a continuous downward spiral, exhibiting every kind of negative behavior from disrespect, angry outbursts, and excessive risk taking, to depression, poor grades, and open rebellion.  Drugs, alcohol, and sexual promiscuity were all elements of her behavior as well.  She didn’t seem to care about anything or anyone.  She had no friends, no relationships outside of our family, and she was rejecting every moral and spiritual principle we had ever held.  Her mood swings kept us all on an emotional roller coaster. For months we lived with the fear of potential suicide.  We couldn’t sleep, eat, make any plans; we could barely function.”

If you’ve been there, you know the feelings of what this family is talking about. And in a world where options for kids spinning out of control are somewhat limited, I was thankful that there was an option that didn’t mean a teen had to leave home, and that parents weren’t going to have a spend a fortune getting their family straightened out.

I spend most of time now helping prevent families from ever having to send their child away to get the help they need.  For those who don’t know, besides the books, articles, radio programs, and speaking events I’m involved with, I am also the Executive Director of a program that I founded 28 years ago, Heartlight.  It is a residential counseling program for 60 teens.  I take what I have learned from all of the 2,500 kids that have lived with us, and share that through any medium I can to apply these “lessons learned” to as many as possible.

Last year, I decided to donate my time to 8 retreats that we hold at Heartlight, which is just out my back door.  These retreats are called Families in Crisis Conferences, and are they the first step for families that are in crisis to find a resolution.  So I encourage everyone struggling with a teen to come to these events, not because I make money (I don’t receive a dime), but because I think you’ll find answers to the situation that you are in, find some new ways to address your family’s issues, and gain a new sense of hope.  Here’s what this family did:

“We attended the Families in Crisis Retreat at Heartlight in Longview, Texas, and it was as if someone had thrown us a life rope when we were floundering in the middle of a stormy ocean.  Mark’s books were extremely helpful and served as our constant resource as we persevered toward restoration for our family.  We began to implement the things we had learned.”

I truly think that these lessons I have learned through the years from teens and families I have been involved with can be applied to any family today, and either prevent this current teen culture from having a devastating effect on your child, help you prepare your child for their upcoming teen years, or help you resolve issues that have been created because of this sometimes damaging adolescent atmosphere.  This family who wrote, directly attributes the change in their son to what they learned from our input:

“Our son will soon be entering his last semester of high school with the anticipation of graduating in May.  Things are SO much better now than they were before we attended the retreat.  He has become a fun, funny, thoughtful, respectful, helpful, obedient young man, who is a joy to be around.  Almost everywhere we go, he walks with his arm around one of us, continuously tells us how proud of us he is, and how thankful he is to have us as his parents.  We no longer dread every day.  In fact, we look forward to them.  We laugh all the time, and enjoy each other every day.  Months ago, we didn’t know if we could all continue to live in the same house.  Now we’re really going to miss him when he leaves! Thank you Mark for giving us hope, and the skills we needed, to get things back on track.”

Again, I’m not trying to sell you anything.  I am trying to get you to take advantage of some of the resources that we provide.   Because I live “right there” I invite all the participants over to eat dinner at my home on one of the nights.  Please don’t hesitate to call us at 903-668-2173 to find out more about this opportunity, or visit for additional information and upcoming dates.


Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, radio host, and the founder and director of Heartlight, a residential counseling center for struggling teens located in Longview, Texas.  He has been married to his wife, Jan, for 40 years, has two kids, and four grandkids.  He lives in Longview, Texas, with the Heartlight staff, 60 high school kids, 25 horses, his dog, Stitch, two llamas, and a prized donkey named Toy.

His past involvement as a youth pastor, Young Life area director, and living with more than 2,800 teens has prepared Mark to share his insights and wisdom about parenting pre-teens and adolescents. You can find out more about Heartlight at HeartlightMinistries.orgYou can also call Heartlight directly at (903) 668-2173.

Mark is also the host of the radio program Parenting Today’s Teen; heard on over 1,600 radio outlets nationwide. Visit where you’ll find more parenting resources and find a station near you that carries the daily 60-second features or the 30-minute weekend program.  Download the Parenting Today’s Teens App for Apple or Android, it’s a great way to listen on your schedule.



Author: Mark Gregston

Mark Gregston began working with teens more than 40 years ago as a youth minister and Young Life director. He has authored nearly two dozen books, has written hundreds of articles, and is host of the nationally-acclaimed Parenting Today’s Teens podcast and radio broadcast.