Books Help Parents Survive and Guide Teens

Kids should come with owner’s manuals. And in some ways they do. For parents of infants and toddlers, there seems to be a book to address every possible need, from breastfeeding to potty training to stimulating your 3-year-old’s cerebellum so she’ll be ready for calculus in pre-kindergarten.

Once the wee ones aren’t so wee, there’s still a need for parenting tips and knowledge. Adolescence, after all, is really a second toddlerhood. But fewer parents seem to have a favorite go-to guide when the topic moves from developing fine motor skills to driving things with motors or from play dates to real dates.

The following are some suggestions from among the many books out there for parents of teens and tweens. The list is by no means exhaustive, but it is a starting point to help anyone who loves an adolescent survive the experience and help the teenager, as well.

Finding Humor

If you can’t laugh, you can’t parent a teen, and several books have titles that reflect the necessary sense of humor.

In Get Out of My Life, But First Could You Drive Me And Cheryl to the Mall? (Farrar, Straus, Giroux, $14.00), Anthony Wolf covers almost every topic imaginable in the parent-teen relationship from Allergy to Parents and Calming the Waves of Hysteria to more serious sections on sex, drugs, drinking and suicide.

The third chapter reads in part, “What is it to be the parent of a teenager? It is to do what you think best — when really you have no idea what is best. It is to ride out the storms and be back again the next day. It is to give love to a child who does not seem to want it, to a child who five minutes ago seemed to deserve a punch more than anything else.”

Betty Londergan titled her book, The Agony and The Agony: Raising your Teenager without Losing your Mind (Da Capo Press, $14.95) and shaped advice and real-life stories around the five stages of grief: denial in the Pre-Hysteric Era, ages 12-13; anger in the Feudal Age, ages 14-15; depression in the Hellacious Period, ages 12-18; bargaining in the Seismic Era, ages 16-17; and acceptance in Gladit’sover Epoch, age 18. Each section includes break-out boxes of Agonizing Examples, Words of Wisdom and Tales from Post-Teens, just to help keep things in perspective.

Michael J. Bradley wrote the award-winning Yes, Your Teen is Crazy! Loving your Child Without Losing your Mind (Harbor Press, $14.99). Among his 10 commandments for parenting a teen: Thou Shalt Not Shout: Speak Thou Wisely and Thou Shalt Honor Thy Child’s Identity (Even Though it Maketh You Ill). While the topical headings might be light, he uses them to dig deeper into ideas of substance, including better ways to communicate so that teens hear the message and the importance of kids forming their own identities.

The cover of Teenagers Suck (Adams Media, $9.95) by Joanne Kimes and R. J. Colleary features a teen texting, “I H8 U Mom.” The book goes on to offer advice on picking battles, peer pressure, and managing computer, television, video game and cell phone use. Oh, and that little issue known as a driver’s license.

Modern Era and Issues

The issues parents and their children face are as age-old as the family structure and as modern as Twitter. The weight of some more recent innovations seems to have fallen disproportionately on tweens and teens, and some recent books address those, as well.

In The Triple Bind (Ballantine Books, $25.00), Stephen Hinshaw looks at the pressures place on teenage girls today. Among other things, they are expected to be pretty, sweet and nice; be athletic, competitive and earn straight A’s; and to be impossibly perfect. The result is everything from self-destructive behavior and over-sexualization to the new culture of violence among teenage girls. Among his suggestions for helping girls develop the resilience they need is finding connection with their community and a larger social purpose, “to join a world that is larger than clothes, looks, and grades.”

At various points, the parent of almost any teenager has wondered whether “typical” teen behavior has gone too far. Lisa Boesky addresses this in When to Worry: How to Tell if your Teen Needs Help and What to Do About It (Amacom, $17.95). A broad range of behaviors is broken down into sections that help recognize the problem and offer solutions. The book includes a section of self-care for parents and a long list of resources and support groups.

Broad Theme, Big Picture

For those interested in a broad primer on the challenges of parenting an adolescent, several books take a guiding theme to the process and apply it to a variety of situations.

In Uncommon Sense for Parents with Teenagers (Celestial Arts, $14.95), Michael Riera explains the shift in roles parents undergo, from manager to consultant, as kids enter adolescence. He writes, “A manager parent tries to ensure that his child makes the ‘best” decisions. A consultant parent focuses on helping her teenager develop and exercise ‘decision-making muscles.’ The outcome is at times less important than the exercise and development of the muscle.”

Building the necessary “muscle” for adulthood is also a focus of Foster Cline and Jim Fay’s Parenting Teens with Love and Logic (NavPress, $19.99). The book encourages parents to give teens the opportunity to make their own decisions and experience the consequences with parental empathy for the inevitable disappointments and frustration. Along with explaining the philosophy, the book offers a collection of brief vignettes for applying love and logic to a variety of situations.

And in Sparks: How Parents Can Help Ignite the Hidden Strengths of Teenagers (Jossey-Bass, $24.95), Peter Benson offers a plan to help kids find joy, energy and direction by focusing on their unique gifts and strengths. The book includes a resource section of nonfiction books, inspiring books and movies, organizations, studies and Web sites.

Categories: Development, Family, Family Ties, Health and Development, Parent Support, Parenting, Relationships, Tweens and Teens

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