Helping Your Teen Help Themselves: Using Books As a Tool To Confidently Navigate Adolescence
As a child and adolescent therapist in Washington, DC, I often find that parents are desperate to better understand the thoughts, feelings, and most of all, the behaviors of their developing teenager. Parents often want to build their understanding of this time in development and also crave strategies to help them and their child feel confident and prepared for this journey through adolescence. Most often, the parents are the ones asking for book recommendations for themselves. But what about the teens?
Our tech-savvy teens are likely to turn to the internet in search of answers to everything, especially if they feel uncomfortable discussing a particular topic in person. Modern teens may also be unaware that their challenges and mental rollercoaster of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are normal among adolescents. I find that teenagers are often unaware that their peers struggle with the same thoughts and feelings themselves, worrying what peers think of them, concern about their looks, wanting to fit in, sex and sexuality, etc. For the teenagers who are curious about these topics, but don’t know how to find reliable resources on their own, or are worried that their feelings aren’t typical, they may often feel overwhelmed.
Many parents of the teenagers I work with have found success by strategically leaving books around the house for them to “find” and explore on their own time and in their own space. These parents explain that, after “finding” these resources in the comfort of their own home, their teenager will come to them with questions or initiate conversations about these topics with them. As their child comes across these books, they will probably figure out who tactically placed them there, realizing you are supporting their curiosity, and would welcome a conversation on the topic.
Self-help topics, both fiction and non fiction types, serve as a starting point to launch conversations on common concerns rising at this point in development, such as stress management, communication, sex, sexuality and gender identity, self esteem and confidence building, anxiety and depression, strategies to achieve academic success, and more.
We can’t force our children to talk about these issues with us, but we can learn from these resources as parents, so we feel comfortable if and when your child brings these issues up.
Books for parents:
- Whole brain child:The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind. Dr. Daniel J. Siegel (Parenting)
- Smart but Scattered Teens: The “Executive Skills” Program for Helping Teens Reach Their Potential. Peg Dawson (Parenting)
- Age of Opportunity: Lessons from the New Science of Adolescence. Laurence Steinberg (Parenting)
- Brainstorm: the Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain. Dr. Daniel J. Siegel (Parenting)
- Middle School Matters: The 10 Key Skills Kids Need to Thrive in Middle School and Beyond–and How Parents Can Help. Phyllis L. Fagell (Parenting)
Books for Adolescents:
- Alan Cole Is Not a Coward. Eric Bell (LGBTQ/ Middle School Issues)
- Tea Dragon Society. K. O’Neill (LGBTQ)
- George. Alex Gino (Gender Identity)
- The Gender Wheel: A Story About Bodies And Gender For Every Body. Maya Christina Gonzalez (Gender Identity)
- Finding Perfect. Elly Swartz (Anxiety)
- Small as an Elephant. Jennifer Richard Jacobson (Mental Health/Mentally Ill Parent)
- Surviving the Emotional Roller Coaster: DBT Skills to Help Teens Manage Emotions (The Instant Help Solutions Series). Sheri Van Dijk MSW (Self-Help)
- The Science of Breakable Things. Tae Keller (Mental Health and Resilience)
- Outsmarting Worry. Dawn Huebner (An Older Kid’s Guide to Managing Anxiety)
- Anxiety Relief for Teens: Essential CBT Skills and Mindfulness Practices to Overcome Anxiety and Stress. Regine Galanti PhD (Anxiety)
- You Go First. Erin Entrada Kelly (Friendship, Accepting Differences)
- Thriving with ADHD Workbook for Teens: Improve Focus, Get Organized, and Succeed. Allison Tyler LCSW (ADHD/Executive Functioning)
- The Way to Bea. Kat Yeh (Friendship, Self Acceptance)
- The Healing Your Grieving Heart Journal for Teens. Alan D Wolfelt PhD (Grief)