3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on March 23, 2010
This review I originally published in 2002 on another website:
I am a 22-year-old college student reading this book for a class on Adolescent Psychology (the teacher uses this book at home as well). This book is simply amazing. It explains a lot of the pressures that occur from pre-teens to young-adults and how the parent should respond to their adolescent, and is an extremely easy read, and very entertaining at times, with practical examples and applications of what is suggested.
The book is broken into sections. The first three chapters are an overview of parenting in a society that is very much different from when we were children. Tips are given on how to communicate with your teenager. One of the most important tools I took from this section is making yourself very clear while listening and evaluating what your teenager feels is important. Steinberg & Levine outline steps that aim to help the parents and the teenager work together to agree on solutions to their disagreements. The authors also discuss family situations that are difficult, such single parenting and divorce.
The next section begins with the preteens, from ages 10 to 13. Puberty is the key issue at this point in the adolescents' lives, so much of the first part of this section offers advice on educating your preteen about puberty. One of the more interesting suggestions made is that not only Mom talk to the daughter about puberty, but also Dad. Same goes for the son. This is aimed at creating an open forum and not making puberty a big secret or something to be ashamed of. This transitions nicely to the next chapter about sexual awakening and the mental and physical difficulties felt by preteens when they start to realize themselves as sexual beings. One of my favorite parts is Steinberg & Levine's discussion on talking to your teenager about sex. For example, they suggest that you start early (around age 12) and keep the lines of communication open throughout the years. This section wraps up with a discussion about cigarettes, alcohol, and marijuana. What makes this chapter distinct is that is does not solely focus on how parents should communicate with their preteen, or what to do after a problem is discovered. Instead, the authors provide a more proactive approach by discussing the reasons preteens experiment and how to be an effective intereveing factor prior to the substance use.
The third section of book deals with the psychological health and development of the preteen. A lot focus is given to some of the common mental experiences of preteens, such as the imaginary audience (on stage all the time), and the personal fable (Johnny may get hurt when he drinks, but I won't). Guidance is given for parents to help lead their preteen during this time of moral development. This section also talks about the feelings and emotions preteens have when trying to gain independence while still being very dependant on his or her parents, as well as feelings of vulnerability and anxiety. Another great segment of this book comes in the discussion of parents going through a "midlife crisis" of questioning their own identity at the same time their teenager is trying to develop their identity, and how to cope in this situation.
The social world of young adolescence is the topic for the fourth section. Issues of popularity, rejection, peer pressure, dating, and parties are given a lot of consideration. During the preteen years the adolescents are often dealing with a transition from elementary to middle school and the book give some tips on how to help make the transition smoothly. Special needs children are also given attention in this section, as this is an especially trying time for those adolescents. Finally this section promotes involvement in school activities. A healthy balance of involvement and detachment are considered in making the best decision for your adolescent. Another balancing act for parents is having high expectations while not demanding too much and pressuring your teenager.
The next two sections further the discussion of physical and psychological health and development in the years of 14 ' year-olds. The first chapter stresses the importance of talking to your teenager about sex. Discussions should include your moral standards (i.e. abstention) but the authors ask parents to be realistic, some kids will still engage in sexual activities against their parents wishes. Because of this, the authors suggest in depth discussions about contraception, sexually transmitted infections, and pregnancy. It is important to discuss the facts as well as distill myths the teenager may believe. Along the same lines, this section promotes more in depth discussion of drugs and alcohol including establishing a clear policy of your expectations and punishments if these are broken. This part also includes how to identify a problem and provides resources on how to react if there is a problem. The most important thing parents can take from these two chapters is that you cannot talk to your child once and think that is enough. Continuing communication as well as an open-door policy are very important.
These sections conclude with discussions about the continuing search the adolescent embarks on for his or her identity. The book promotes extended involvement in your child's life, even though he/she resists, especially their education and their friends. The adolescent still values what his or her parents have to say. They surveyed adolescents whose parents who were very easy-going with them. The results showed that the teenagers wanted more parameters set, i.e. curfew, because it showed more concern and involvement in their life. Some problems parents may see include sexual acting out, defiance, delinquency, running away, truancy & school phobia. The authors promote communication and clear set limits that are enforced. Finally, if the problem is severe, admit that the teenager and the family may need help and seek professional assistance.
This next section finishes out the high school years by discussing the importance of friends and social life. Typically teenagers are more into couples than cliques, but enjoy parties and see both dating and friends as being very important. As stated throughout the book, communicate guidelines and prepare your child for possible bad situations (i.e. you are at a party ad you see a girl-friend drunk who is taken into a bedroom with an older guy, what do you do)? Preparation for stressful situations is important! Schools and work are also discussed in this section, including the decision of private versus public education. The positive and negative aspects of extracurricular activities and working during the school year are discussed in this section, as well as summer activities and preparation for graduation, be it college, vocational school, or straight into working
The book concludes with a chapter on young adulthood. Decisions such as moving out or living at home after high school are discussed as well as role changes as your teenager will expect more freedom as they become adults. If you child has chosen to attend college, the book suggests guidelines on how to parent a young adult who lives independently on your budget. Issues such as intimate relationships (i.e. cohabitation, revealing homosexuality) can often be hard for parents.
Finally, at the end of each chapter, the authors provide resources to help parents get more information and/or help with the topics in that chapter. Examples of the resources include help groups and outreach for dealing with drug problems and eating disorders, as well as guidebooks for helping your teenager prepare for college.
Not the entire book was great. It validates leaving your youth home alone after school while you are at work. From personal experience, this was the time that I would get in trouble because of lack of supervision. Not being a parent and not having much interaction with adolescents, I cannot say much regarding if there is anything missing in this book that would be helpful. In addition this is my first reading of a parenting book of any type, so I am unable to provide a comparison to similar books.
I believe that this book can be helpful for any person who interacts with adolescents, whether it is their own children, relatives, or in a work section, this book provides insight to the psyche of a very difficult period of life. I am planning on becoming a school counselor and I can see this book being a great tool when helping adolescents in the schools.
Overall the book helps parents develop communication skills to keep a strong and healthy relationship with adolescents. Now remember, I am not a parent, so I have been unable to put his suggestions to practice. On the other hand, I do recognize a lot of what he suggests was what my parents tried to do (from my memory and I asked my parents what they tried to do, and a lot of it coincided with Steinberg & Levine's advice). Parents in the class for which this book was assigned have exclaimed, "I wish I had known about this book!" Even though I have no experience with the practical application of the book's principles, I am comfortable recommending this book. And I definitely plan on keeping this book for when I do have teenagers!