Inventing Ourselves: The Secret Life of the Teenage Brain Sarah-Jayne Blakemore

This book has won so many awards and it certainly does what it sets out to do, i.e., laying out all the science about brain development and translating it into something useful for parents, as well as anyone who has anything to do with teenagers. It’s a great read and the author has a great talent in taking really complex scientific research and making it accessible, my only criticism is that there are so many studies discussed that occasionally it all becomes a bit too much! A couple of times I had to put it down just to take a breath … That said, you can certainly tell that Blakemore is a scientist herself (a neuroscientist actually) as she is extremely careful not to talk in ‘definites’. There are lots of ‘this suggests’ and ‘perhaps this explains’ …


Staying Connected To Your Teenager Michael Riera

A really easy read that is, as the title says, not only about getting your teen to talk to you but also how to really hear what they’re saying. The author not only does a great job of explaining why your teenager may be behaving in a particular way but also gives lots of really practical advice on how to work with that behaviour. The most important thing a parent of an adolescent can do is maintain a connection with their child and that can be so difficult when you find them ‘shutting down’ and pulling away from you. If your teen is at the stage where they reply only in grunts, I guarantee that you will find at least one useful tip to get some type of conversation up and running. Well worth a read.


You and Your Adolescent: The Essential Guide for Ages 10-25 Laurence Steinberg

A wonderful book that will help parents successfully navigate their teens through adolescence. It explains in easy-to-read language what a teen is going through during this difficult time, particularly in terms of brain development, and also provides some really practical suggestions on how a parent can successfully deal with these changes. The book covers a wide range of issues including sexuality, alcohol and other drugs, peer pressure and the transition to adulthood. The title frightens parents a little, previously unaware that adolescence now starts so early and finishes much later!


Age Of Opportunity Laurence Steinberg

Another book by Laurence Steinberg, this time updating the science of adolescence, particularly in terms of brain development and what this means in practical terms for parents and those that work with young people. The last third of the book focuses on Steinberg’s work with young people in the US who were imprisoned for crimes they committed when they were juveniles and his reasoning behind trying to get them out of jail. It is still very interesting reading but not necessarily as useful for most parents as his previous publication. Educators and others who work with adolescents will find the first half of this book particularly useful as the author clearly explains why young people do the things they do based on the most current research available.


Teenagers, Alcohol and Drugs Paul Dillon

After years of collecting questions that young people and their parents had around alcohol and other drugs, I finally got around to answering them all in a book. Published in 2009, this could do with a little updating but essentially the basics are all there – young peoples’ questions about looking after drunk friends, what to do in an emergency and whether parents are contacted if a child calls 000 and a friend is taken to the hospital are all answered. Parents’ concerns about how to host a teenage party successfully and will using cannabis inevitably lead to ‘harder drug’ use are also addressed. Simple to read, it is best left on the kitchen table so that your son or daughter can pick it up and leaf through and hopefully begin a valuable conversation.


The Teenage Brain Frances E. Jensen with Amy Ellis Nutt

Written by a neuroscientist (who also happens to be a mother of two sons), this is a great little book that helps readers understand what is happening to the brain during adolescence. Some of the information around illicit drugs is a little judgemental and there are a couple of factual errors here and there but apart from that, this is a good read. Some really good information around how teens learn and some fascinating insight into brain development and memory.


Setting Limits With Your Strong-Willed Teen Robert J. MacKenzie

After explaining adolescence and ‘strong-willed teens’, this author does a wonderful job of providing parents with some extremely practical advice on how to establish and maintain rules and boundaries. There’s so much I liked about this book – it’s incredibly easy to read and very practical. It not only helps parents understand their teen’s behaviour but also gets them to examine how they are responding and how small changes can make all the difference. If you’re having a tough time with your teen – well worth a read.


Being 14 Madonna King

When Madonna interviewed me for a chapter on alcohol and other drugs for this book I was excited to hear that there was going to be an Australian resource for parents of daughters of this age. It’s a difficult time and the interviews she conducted with 200 young women of that age are used to illustrate the challenges they face as well as their concerns. An easy-read, the book is not all ‘doom and gloom’ with experts from across a range of fields providing practical strategies to assist parents help ‘fierce teens become awesome women’. It covers so many topics – the chapter discussing money and saving is particularly interesting.


Growing Happy, Healthy Young Minds Ramesh Manocha (Editor)

This is a series of articles written by many of the people who have presented at the Generation Next seminars over the years. I have contributed two chapters in this edition (there will be two) under the alcohol and other drugs section. Other topics covered in this edition include mental health, body image and eating disorders and resilience and positive psychology. When we were asked to write the articles it was made clear that not only should we discuss the issue, we should also ensure that we offered practical advice on how to deal with associated problems. A really terrific resource for any parent or anyone that works with young people.

Looking for information or support services on alcohol or drugs?

If you or a friend or family member needs assistance in this area, Alcohol and Drug Information Services (ADIS) are available in every state and territory. Each of these are each staffed by trained professionals who can help with your query and provide confidential advice or refer you to an appropriate service in your area.

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