As a clinical psychologist specializing in adolescent development and as a parent to two teen/young adult children, I know how challenging the teen years can be for parents. Our teenagers are in the midst of massive hormonal, emotional, and brain changes we don’t understand (but certainly observe!).
The emotions, problems, and stressors seem so much bigger than they were in the toddler and child stages. And we’re struggling to parent in an unfamiliar context of balancing setting appropriate limits with fostering our teens’ autonomy and independent decision-making.
Below is a curated list of the best books for parents of teenagers, ranging from understanding teen development to general parenting strategies for parents of teens to specific topics such as teen daughters, sons, and parenting teenagers with mental health problems. All were chosen for their balance of being evidence-based with being accessible and offering practical, easy-to-implement ideas.
Great, accessible summary of the current neuroscience on teenage brain development and how to apply it as a parent. Understand what is going on “under the hood” so to speak, and how brain development is related to so many of the behaviors we observe in our teens: intense and rapidly changing emotions, moodiness, impulsivity, difficulties with decision making, and peer pressure. Most importantly, the book focuses on how brain development can impact relationships, including the parent-teen relationship, during this important stage.
Excellent overview of emotional development during the teen years, the relationship between emotions and mental health, and how parents can support healthy emotional development. Great read that balances understanding the teen experience with practical advice for parents.
A teen-specific version of the well-known Love and Logic parenting series. This approach focuses on reducing the use of anger, power struggles, and punishment and increasing the use of logic and communication to help parents set healthy boundaries with their teens. Importantly for the teen years, the book focuses on how to support teenagers learning to make healthy independent decisions.
Very accessible and practical parenting guide that emphasizes how to understand teens, be an effective role model, set realistic expectations, choose your battles, and communicate effectively. The book also focuses on helping teenagers develop and maintain healthy self-esteem during a time of increased social anxiety and self-doubt.
All too often we focus on all the things that worry or stress us out about our children – the intense emotions we want to regulate and the problem behaviors we want to reduce. The strengths-based parenting approach of this book takes the opposite strategy and asks how we can help our teenagers develop their strengths and turn them into resilience, optimism, and positive outcomes.
This pair of books have rightfully won multiple awards as the go-to resources for parents of teen girls. Untangled is a general parenting book that outlines the typical developmental stages for female adolescents along with how parents can handle the most common challenges of each.
Under Pressure focuses on the alarmingly high rates of anxiety among teen girls, and helps parents understand how the unavoidable stresses of this age can be leveraged into opportunities to build strength and resilience among their daughters.
A very accessible and practical guide to understanding typical development for male adolescents, and helping parents cultivate a positive, strengths-based parenting approach to interacting with their sons during this important stage. Also a strong emphasis on using emotion coaching to help teen boys develop effective emotion regulation and communication skills.
A more scientifically-grounded but still easily readable guide to how puberty interacts with culture to influence development for teen boys. Includes examples and scripts for addressing important topics such as alone time versus family connection, managing screen time and pornography, and understanding and discussing consent.
Teenagers often struggle with moodiness; intense negative emotions such as depression, anger, and anxiety; and problem behaviors such as acting out and risk taking. While common, these emotions and behaviors can be very challenging for parents to handle. The following parenting books offer the best in current evidence-based approaches for how parents can support teens in learning to effectively regulate their emotions and actions.
This parenting book is grounded in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) which is an evidence-based approach for managing intense negative emotions and problem behaviors such as self-injury. It is a practical application for parents with plenty of worksheets and specific tools to try with your teenager.
When teens are overwhelmed by negative emotions, including anger, it often comes out in emotionally dysregulated behavior, conflict, and acting out. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a proven method for helping teenagers accept stressful life experiences and tolerate negative emotions in more effective ways. This book applies ACT to the parent-teen relationship with concrete tools to improve communication and break the conflict cycle.
This book is grounded in cognitive-behavioral strategies and a positive parenting approach to handle your teens’ anxiety and worries in helpful ways. It will help you support your teenager in challenging worrisome thoughts, reduce behaviors that unintentionally make anxiety worse, and build resilience.
Parenting a teen is not for the faint of heart! It is an amazing but challenging developmental stage filled with rapid physical, emotional, and cognitive development – all happening in the context of unprecedented academic demands, stress, and social media. The books listed above are great resources for parents of teenagers to help you build your own coping toolkit for being a good and effective parent during the teen years.