This is a listing of helpful books related to the parent/young adult stage of family development. Feel free to browse this. If you think you might like to read one of these recommended books, check on Amazon and get a preview before buying.
Out of the over one hundred books listed in the bibliography, the first list is ten of my favorites.
If you have a book to recommend, please email the title and a few sentences as to why you liked the book or found it helpful and I will review it and consider adding it to the list. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Getting to Thirty: A Parent’s guide to the 20-Something Years
If you have kids considering college and could buy just one book to prepare for this stage, this would be one of two I would recommend. Jeffrey Arnett coined the phrase “emerging adult” and is recognized as a leading expert in this field. The writing is well grounded in theory, research and experience while providing practical recommendations.
One of the best reads on understanding the Millennial Generation worker. Discuss seven key trends that make up the M-factor: Parenting, Entitlement, Meaning, Great Expectations, The Need for Speed, Social Networking, and Collaboration.
This book is by a former Dean at Stanford and is a great fit for parents whose young adults are college bound. Good advice to parents of balancing support and emancipation. Good writing and research and one of my favorites. I would highly recommend this book. It is both informative and reader friendly.
Brainstorm: The Power and The Purpose of The Teenage Mind
Since we have learned that the brain, especially the neocortex, continues to develop well into the mid-twenties this is an important read. Dr. Siegel is the leading expert on the development of the brain and the impact of this development on family and interpersonal relationships. If you have a late adolescent or early young adult and are puzzled by their behavior, this would be a book to check out.
A very good in-depth treatment of apology. If you want to learn more of how apology can be helpful not only with adult children, this would be an excellent resource.
Forgiveness Is A Choice: A Step-By Step Process for Resolving Anger and Restoring Hope
Research based approach to forgiveness if you find yourself wanting to dig deeper into this topic or struggle with the challenge of forgiveness. This will make the strong case for forgiveness.
Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children
Good testimonials of a women whose son had gotten into trouble with drugs and the law and her realization of the enabling behavior she exhibited that contributed to this. This also includes rules, guidelines and principles to avoid enabling behavior.
When Parents Hurt: Compassionate Strategies When You and Your Grown Child Don’t Get Along
This is a great book for parents who are experiencing alienation and shut off from their young adult children. In my practice, I have seen many parents whose young adult children have cut off contact completely with their parents. It’s heartbreaking and parents feel absolutely helpless to change the situation if the young adult does not want to communicate.
When Your Adult Child Breaks Your Heart
Good read for those who are dealing with serious young adult problems- criminal behavior, alcoholism and drug addiction, psychiatric problems and suicidal behavior. These are by far the toughest young adult/family problems I face in private practice. Good section on diagnosing and understanding substance abuse problems and mental health problems.
A deep dive by one of my favorite authors into the dynamics of the young adult and the family. If you can’t seem to make sense of what is happening with the dynamics of the family, this could give you some great insight. Other resources by Brad Sachs are available at www.BradSachs.com
Understanding and Communicating With The Young Adult
Angone, Paul. All Grown UP: Searching for Self, Faith and a Freaking Job. 2014. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan. A good book about the struggle of a millennial told by a millennial. He describes struggles with relationships, work, depression, self-esteem and God. Not overly religious but a certain theme of struggling with why he is suffering and where is God in all of these young adult challenges. Want to get a feel for being inside the mind of struggling young adult, read this.
Arnett, Jeffrey Jensen and Elizabeth Fishel. 2014. Getting to Thirty: A Parent’s guide to the 20-Something Years. New York: Workman Publishing. If you have kids considering college and could buy just one book to prepare for this stage, this would be one of two I would recommend. The other is by Julie Lythcott-Haims. Jeffrey Arnett coined the phrase “emerging adult” and is recognized as a leading expert in this field. So the writing is well grounded in theory, research and experience while providing practical recommendations.
Arnett, Jeffrey Jensen and Joseph Schwab. 2013. The Clark University Study of Emerging Adults. Worchester, Massachusetts: Clark University. This is a classic study on young adults if you have an interest in learning more about young adults today as a specific population. Research is solid.
Brown, Kelly Williams. Adulting: How to Become A Grown-Up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps. 2013. New York: Grand Central Publishing. Good reference book you may want to give to your young adult. Maybe a companion to the book by Paul Angone. The former is more prescriptive, the latter is more compassionate.
Coburn, Karen Leven and Madge Lawrence Treeger. Letting Go: A Parent’s Guide to Understanding College Years. 1997. New York: Harper Perennial. Lot of info on what the college student is experiencing. Not a lot on the parenting response.
Padilla-Walker, Laura M. and Larry J. Nelson.2017. Flourishing in Emerging Adulthood New York: Oxford University Press. An impressive collection of thoughtful and research based writings on young (emerging) adults. If you want to take a deep dive into emerging adulthood or have research and writing interests, this is required reading.
Hofer, Barbara and Abigail Sullivan Moore. The iConnected Parent: Staying Close to Your Kids in College (and Beyond) While Letting Them Grow Up. 2010. Good read for how to manage the digital experience with your young adult. Geared a bit more to parents whose kids are going to college so might be a nice complement to Julie Lythcot-Haims and Coburn and Treeger, authors referenced in this bibliography.
Henig, Robin Marantz. Twenty Something: Why Do Young Adults Seem Stick? 2012. New York: A Plume Book. This is a good deep dive into the issues and challenges facing young adults. Good reminder of the difficulties we faced and some of the new ones facing our young adult children. If you want to deepen your understanding of young adults today, this is a good read.
Hoolihan, Patricia. Launching Your Teen Into Adulthood. 2009. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Search Institute Press. There is a lot of good research and work that has come from Search Institute. I worked with their former director, Dr. Peter Benson, on some projects and learned a lot about youth and the strengths and positive aspects of youth from Peter. This is a fairly short and practical coverage of various aspects of the teen life leading up and into the young adult stage.
Jensen, Frances E and Amy Ellis Nutt. The Teenage Brain. 2015. New York: Harper. This is a really in depth description of what is or isn’t happening in the teen/ young adult’s brain. We know that the brain and particularly the executive function of the frontal lobe is not fully developed until mid twenties. Knowing this can help parents be more appreciative or understanding of some immature behavior.
Konstan, Varda. Parenting Your Emerging Adult: Launching Kids from 18-29. 2013. Far Hills, New Jersey: New Horizon Press. Good primer on the young adult experience in today’s changing society. You can read this and learn both what the young adult may be experiencing and how parents of a different generation can connect to them. Practical advice.
Lancaster, Lynne C. and David Stillman. The M-factor. 2010. New York: Harper-Collins Publishers. One of the best reads on understanding the Millennial Generation worker. Discuss seven key trends that make up the M-factor: Parenting, Entitlement, Meaning, Great Expectations, The Need for Speed, Social Networking, and Collaboration.
Lythcott-Haims, Julie. How to Raise and Adult. 2015. New York: Henry Holt and Company. This book is by a former Dean at Stanford and is a great fit for parents whose young adults are college bound. Good advice to parents of balancing support and emancipation. Good writing and research and one of my favorites. I would highly recommend this book. It is both informative and reader friendly.
Riera, Michael. Staying Connected to Your Teenager. 2003. Cambridge, Ma. Perseus Press. Although targeted to parent teen interactions, this extends well to young adults especially if they are still living at home. Lots of good tips and suggestions on how connect and stay connected to your teen (and young adult). Maintaining connection while letting go is the path to effective launching the young adult.
Setterstein, Richard and Barbara E. Ray. Not Quite Adults: Why 20-Somethings Are Choosing a Slower Path to Adulthood and Why It’s Good For Everyone. 2010. New York: Bantam Books. A good piece of writing that brings together scholars and
researchers from different fields expose some of the myths about millennials. Good grounding in what we really know about this generation.
Seigel, Daniel J. Brainstorm: The Power and The Purpose of The Teenage Mind. 2015. New York: Penguin. Since we have learned that the brain, especially the neocortex, continues to develop well into the mid twenties this is an important read. Dr. Siegel in this and his classic book on Parenting From The Inside Out, is the leading expert on the development of the brain and the impact of this development on family and interpersonal relationships. If you have a late adolescent or early young adult and are puzzled by their behavior, this would be a book to check out.
Stoltzfus, Jack. Can You Speak Millennial”ese?” 2017. Shoreview, Minnesota: Self-Published. Consider this a primer on understanding and connecting to your young adult. Understand young adult development, parent development, this separation process, and skills to connect such as non-judgmental listening, open ended enquiry, interviewing your young adult, feedback and feed forward. Master this information and skills and you will advance your relationship with your young adult and the letting go process. Available through parentelettinggo.com or Amazon.
Walsch, David. Why Do They Act That Way? 2014. New York: Atria Paperback. Good read if dealing with late adolescents or early young adults (16-25 ages) because there is an in depth discussion of brain development which we understand continues until mid twenties or even later. Could be helpful in the practice of developing a deeper understanding of your young adult and the fact that they are still maturing.
Campbell, Ross and Chapman, Gary. How To Really Love Your Adult Child. 2011. Chicago, Illinois: Northfield Publishing. Chapman wrote the popular Love Languages. This is good advice from both a psychological perspective and a Christian perspective. If you want to be sure you are aligned with Christian principles, this may be a good read and not overly preachy.
Klebold, Sue. A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tradgedy. 2016. New York: Broadway Books. This is a heart wrenching story of the mother of Dylan Klebold one of the two shooters in the Columbine School massacre. It’s very hard to read because of what the parents believed about their son, his history of close relationships with his parents and the lack of signs of trouble. The quote that stays with me after reading this is: “…no harder truth for a parent to bear, but it is one that no parent on earth knows better than I do, and it is this: love is not enough.” This book highlights one of the tenants of the books I have written and that is we ultimately cannot control our young adults. One other message that comes through in this is how abiding her love is for Dylan in the face of his horrible actions. Unconditional love means no matter what we still love out children and always will.
Kohn, Alfie. Unconditional Parenting. 2005. New York: Atria Books. After reading this a few years ago, I was struck with guilt over so many practices that he argues are hurtful to raising children- time out; go to your room- as examples. He is the most articulate spokesperson for moving away form conditionality in parenting which by the time they get to young adulthood isn’t possible anyway. Read this if you still have younger children or adolescents as well as young adults, but be prepared to re-examine many of the child rearing beliefs and practices you have endorsed over the years. Really supports the loving side of connecting to your kids.
Milliken, Bill. Tough Love: A Realistic Christian Love is Changing Young Lives In the Ghettos of New York. 1968. Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Company. I placed this book here and also under integrity. This book starts with the love that Bill Milliken experienced in his relationship to God and his desire to communicate this love to gang members on the lower East Side of New York City. He wrestled with the dilemma of loving these gang members while standing up for his values and his faith. What changed the gang member’s behavior was the fact that his actions were originating out of love and not hate, anger, fear, resentment or revenge. Love is where our actions need to begin. Good example of how to act out of love and firm conviction.
Stoltzfus, John (Jack). Differentiation and Delinquent Youth. 1980. Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press. Stoltzfus’ original research on defining healthy emotional separation between youth and parents. Perceptions of the relationship between delinquent youth and non-delinquent youth and their parents were compared. It was clear that parents of normal adolescents saw their parents as both more loving and more giving of autonomy than the delinquent youth. Demonstrating that healthy letting go involves loving your adolescent and young adult and not just pushing autonomy.
Stoltzfus, Jack. Love to Let Go: Loving Our Kids Into Adulthood. 2017. Shoreview, Minnesota: Self-Published. This is the core message of the series by this author- establishing an attachment or bond to your young adult of unconditional love is the essential foundation for launching young adults. Feeling loved sets the young adult free with the knowledge that no matter what the love and emotional support from their parents will always be there. Available through parentslettinggo.com or Amazon.
Chapman, Larry and Jennifer Thomas. When Sorry Isn’t Enough. 2013. Chicago: Northfield Publishing. Good book on the specifics of apology- what it is, how to do it, etc. Good section on apologizing in families. Also, apologizing, asking for forgiveness but not receiving it. Christian orientation but also solid advice from a psychological perspective.
Engel, Beverly. The Power of Apology. 2001. New York: John Wiley and Sons. A very good in depth treatment of apology. If you want to learn more of how apology can be helpful not only with adult children, this would be an excellent resource.
Kador, John. Effective Apology. 2009. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.
A broader treatment of the practice of apology. Lots of business illustrations and public figures apologizing. Good guidance for how, when, in what way and what not to do relative to apologizing.
Lazare, Aaron. On Apology. 2004. New York: Oxford University Press. If you want to do an in-depth study of apology, this would be the book. What, why ,when, how coverage of apology. Points are very well supported and documented. Follow Lazare’s guidance and you will be effective at the practice of apology.
Learner, Harriet. Why Don’t You Apologize? 2017. New York: Simon and Schuster. This is a practical book by a well-known author of The Dance of Anger, The Dance of Fear and other books. She’s a very good writer and speaks to the heart as well as the brain. Easy to read and good advice.
Stoltzfus, Jack. Apology: The Gift We Give Our Young Adults. 2017. Shoreview, Minnesota: Self-Published. This is one of the “healing practices” in letting go of your young adult. Many parents suffer from guilt about past actions or failures. This will often bind them in unhealthy ways to their young adult. They may give in to or excuse irresponsible behavior or try to compensate for past actions by overindulging the young adult. Only when you can let go of guilt are you able to fully let go of your young adult. Available through parentslettinggo.com and Amazon.
Augsburger, David W. Helping People Forgive. 1996. Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press. This is a very in depth discussion of forgiveness and related aspects such as resentment, reconciliation, love and differentiation, grief, motivations for forgiveness. A Professor from Fuller Theological Seminary writes this from a Christian perspective. If you want to dig deeply into the issue and challenges round forgiveness, particularly from a Christian perspective, this is a good read.
Borysenko, Joan. Guilt is the Teacher, Love is the Lesson. 1990. New York: Warner Brothers. If you suffer a lot of guilt either as a parent or in other areas of your life, you need to read this. It has been around for a while but the truths she shares are timeless. A good guide to letting go of guilt and experiencing forgiveness.
Casarjian, Robin. Forgiveness: A Bold Choice for a Peaceful Heart. 1992. New York: Banton Books. I like this book a lot. More from a humanistic perspective but applies forgiveness to many different circumstances and relationships. Very broad in application with many exercises to pursue in developing a forgiving heart.
Enright, Robert D. Forgiveness Is A Choice: A Step-By Step Process for Resolving Anger and Restoring Hope. 2001. Washington, D.C. APA Life Tools. Research based approach to forgiveness if you find yourself wanting to dig deeper into this topic or struggle with the challenge of forgiveness. This will make the strong case for forgiveness.
Enright, Robert B. Keys to Forgiveness. 2015. New York: W.W. Norton and Company. Enright is one of the premier researchers and writers in the area of forgiveness. This is much more practical and written for the general public than Forgiveness Is A Choice. That said the concepts and recommendations for implementing forgiveness are rooted in his research.
Friel, John and Linda Friel. An Adult Child’s Guide to What’s Normal. 2010. Deerfield Beach, Florida: Health Communications. I include this book here and could also put it in the apology section because it deals with what parents bring into their marriage and parenting role from their own family experience. In some ways we all come from dysfunctional families. It’s a book about how to be healthy and functional even though you may come from a dysfunctional family. The healthier you can be the more likely you are to have a healthy relationship with your young adult.
Grosskopf, Barry. Forgive Your Parents, Heal Yourself. 1999. New York: The Free Press. If you struggle with your parents currently or in the past, there is a high likelihood that this will negatively affect your life and your relationships, particularly with your children. Sometimes the best thing to do to develop a better relationship with your young adult is to work through the damage and dysfunction that you experience or have experience with your parents. You show your young adult that you can work through your issues with parents and model and give permission for them to do the same.
Halpern, Howard M. Cutting Loose: An Adults Guide to Coming to Terms With Your Parents. 1976. New York: Simon and Schuster 1990. Classic work on adults dealing with unresolved issues with their parents. Some parents of young adults have trouble letting go because they have never let go of certain emotions related to their parents. Or, in some case are trying to address grievances with parents through their relationship with their young adult children. If you still have binding emotions toward your parents- anger, hurt, resentment, jealousy, frustration, etc.… this could be helpful. Getting detached from one’s parents may be the best thing you can do to let go of your own adult children.
Jones, Gregory L. Embodying Forgiveness: A Theological Analysis. 1995. Grand Rapids, Michigan; William B. Erdmans Publishing. As the book indicates this is a theological dive into the concept of forgiveness. Clearly a Christian approach from a religious perspective but linked to universal aspects of forgiveness. Not recommended if you want practical- how to’s of parental forgiveness.
Newmark, Amy and Anderson, Anthony. The Power of Forgiveness. 2014. New York: Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing. Distributed by Simon and Schuster Lot of good examples and stories of forgiveness- between mothers and children, fathers, siblings, spouses, friends, crimes, self forgiveness
Simon, Sydney and Simon, Suzanne. Forgiveness: How to Make Peace with Your Past and Get on With Your Life. 1991. New York: Grand Central Publishing. This one is for you if you believe that your being stuck with your young adult relates to some unfinished business with your own parents. Forgiveness and letting go of our old wounds and childhood experiences is critical to being available to our young adults in an open and free way. Otherwise we carry a hidden agenda using our kids to resolve our unfinished business with our parents.
Smedes, Lewis. Forgive and Forget: Healing the Hurts We Don’t Deserve. 1984. New York: Harper and Row. Been around for some time but is a classic. Set the foundation for a lot of current day research on forgiveness. Brief and easy read on various aspects of forgiveness. Covers stages, Hard to forgive people, how to forgive, why forgive, etc.
Stoltzfus, Jack. Forgiveness: The Gift We Share With Our Young Adults and Ourselves. 2017. Shoreview, Minnesota: Self-Published. The fourth practice book in the series on parents letting go and the second one focused on healing the relationship between parents and their young adults. Forgiveness sets the forgiver free and parents need to free themselves of anger, resentment, and disappointment either toward their young adult or themselves in order to fully let the young adult go. Available through parentslettinggto.com or Amazon.
Stoop, David. Forgiving Our Parents, Forgiving Ourselves. 2011. Ventura, California: Regal. This would be a very helpful book for parents who have unresolved issues of forgiveness and apology with their own parents. Such unresolved issues can consciously and unconsciously contaminate and complicate the parent-young adult relationship.
Tipping, Colin. Radical Forgiveness. 2009. Boulder, Colorado: Sounds True Press. Tipping offers step-by-step instruction and practical tools to make forgiveness part of your life. Shows how forgiveness leads to a healthier and more fulfilling life. A parent can take this book and apply the practices to the parenting role.
Wolter, Dwight Lee. Forgiving Our Grownup Children. 1998. Cleveland, Ohio: Pilgrim Press. One of a very few books on parent’s forgiving their kids. Worth a read if you feel stuck in the forgiveness process with your young adult. Covers some of the same ground as Forgiveness: The Gift We Give Young Adults and Ourselves but offers further insights and suggestions for facing this challenge.
Worthington, Everett. Forgiving and Reconciling. 2003. Downers Grove, Illinois: Intervarsity Press, 2003. One of the top writers and researchers in the current field of forgiveness. Lays out the steps to forgiveness in what he calls the REACH approach.
Worthington, Everett Jr. How to Forgive. 2012. Downers Grove, Illinois: Intervarsity Press, 2012. Good primer on forgiveness with an explicitly Christian emphasis.
Integrity and Boundaries
Bottke, Allison. Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children. 2008. Eugene Oregon: Harvest House Publishers; 2008. Good testimonials of a women who’s son had gotten into trouble with drugs and the law and her realization of the enabling behavior she exhibited that contributed to this. This also includes rules, guidelines and principles to avoid enabling behavior.
Cloud, Henry and John Townsend. Boundaries. 1992. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zonderman. Christian perspectives on boundaries. Somewhat dense discussion of boundaries and may be hard to apply all that is covered. That said, you could likely find sections that apply to your particular situation. These two authors have written extensively on boundaries so there are many other books by them if you like their approach.
Brown, Anne. Backbone Power: The Science of Saying No. 2013. Self published. If you tend to be a people pleaser with your young adult and other family members or friends and you want to go to boot camp to learn how to say “no,” this is the book for you. More geared to women as the cover illustrates- picture of Rosie the Riveter- being a pleaser is not confined to women.
Katherine, Anne. Where to Draw the Line. 2000. New York: Fireside. This is good on setting boundaries. Her definition of a boundary- “A boundary is a limit. By limits you set, you protect the integrity of your day, your energy and spirit, the health of your relationship, the purists of your heart. Boundaries provide a clear moral compass.” Not unlike my use of guidelines and integrity. If you need to get clear on what you should accept and not accept, do and not do, in family and outside family relationships, consider this book.
Josephson, Michael S. Val J. Peter. Parenting to Build Character in Your Teen. 2001. Boys Town, Nebraska: Boys Town Press. This is an excellent read for parents with teenagers and those young adults who still think they are teenagers or act as such. Principles clearly can apply to the later years of adolescence and early young adulthood. Josephson is a well-respected researcher and writer in the area of ethics and character. It’s not too late to take these concepts and principles and apply these to the relationship with young adults.
Milliken, Bill. Tough Love: A Realistic Christian Love is Changing Young Lives In the Ghettos of New York. 1968. Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Company. I placed this book here and also under unconditional love. This book starts with the love that Bill Milliken experienced in his relationship to God and his desire to communicate this love to gang members on the lower East Side of New York City. He wrestled with the dilemma of loving these gang members while standing up for his values and his faith. What changed the gang member’s behavior was the fact that his actions were originating out of love and not hate, anger, fear, resentment or revenge. Love is where our actions need to begin. Good example of how to act out of love and firm conviction.
Nemzoff, Ruth. Don’t Bite Your Tongue. 2008. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Somewhat encyclopedic on all issues related to young adults. Stories and examples. Good questions at the end of the chapter to ask yourself or your young adult. Good communication. Also there are suggestions on setting up a support group.
Miller, Angelyn. The Enabler. 2008. Tucson, Arizona: Wheatmark. Good treatment of a wife and mother caught up in enabling and learning how to recognize and admit to enabling and commit to change. Some good checklists and prescriptions for change.
Prochaska, James O., John C. Norcross and Carlo C. Diclemente. Changing for Good. 1994. New York: Harper Collins. Description of the stages of change and the need to understand where a person (young adult) may be in receptivity to change. These authors also discuss how to influence at different stages of change. Applies well beyond the parent-young adult relationship and can be used to understand and work through ones own personal changes.
Sachs, Brad. Family Centered Treatment With Struggling Young Adults. 2013. New York: Routledge 2013. This is a very good book for therapists in understanding the dynamics of families with young adults who are struggling with the launch process. Very practical ways to conceptualize and address launching stage challenges. May not be a good fit if you are not a therapist or have some counseling background.
Metcalf, Linda. Parenting Toward Solutions. 1997. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education. If you want to learn more about using a solutions approach versus a problem approach to issues with your children, this could be helpful. More focused on younger children and adolescents but some reference to young adults.
Katherine, Anne. Boundaries: Where You End and I Begin. 1991. Center City: Minnesota. Hazelden. This is about how to recognize and set healthy boundaries. This is a short easy read on how to set boundaries in different situations. More broad based than applicable to parent young adult boundaries. That said you can learn a lot from tis book on how to set boundaries with your young adult.
Peters, Ruth. Laying Down the Law: The 25 Laws of Parenting to Keep Your Kids on Track, out of trouble and (pretty Much) Under Control. 2002. Emmaus, Pennsylvania: Rodale Press. This book may be too little and too late for parents of young adults but I think you can still glean some ideas from this on how to exhibit backbone and be clear on expectations. Very much an advice book.
Stoltzfus, Jack. Parenting Young Adults with Love and Backbone. 2018. Shoreview, Minnesota. The fifth book in the series on parents letting go with a focus on the most challenging aspect of launching a young adult. How do you balance love and nurturance with firmness, setting limits and saying “no?” Young adults need to hear both messages in order to successfully move toward responsible adulthood. Available in May of 2018 through prentslettinggp.com or Amazon.
Letting Go by Growing Apart
Casey, Karen. Let It Go Now. 2010. San Francisco: Red Wheel/Weiser. Excellent book of daily meditations on the practice of letting go. Use these daily meditations to practice detachment. Very good guidance on learning how to let go.
Canfield, Jack, Mark Victor Hansen, Carol McAdoo Rehme, and Patricia Cena Evans. Chicken Soup for the Soul. 2008. Empty Nesters: 101 Stories about Surviving and Thriving When the Kids Leave Home. Cos Ct: Connecticut: Chicken Soup for The Soul Publishing. If you want to know you are not alone in the challenges of the Empty Nest or like to read stories of how empty nesters do it, this is for you.
Hawkins, Davis F. Letting Go. 2012. New York: Hey House. Written by a person with an MD and Ph.D. who has clearly brought both of these disciplines together to understand how we let go of various emotions and face the loss and grief of these while maintaining our balance and energy. More toward the new energy psychology and thinking but helpful if a person is struggling with the letting go process.
Stoltzfus, Jack. Growing Apart. 2018. Shoreview, Mm. The last in the series of six practices that enable parents to let go of their young adult children. Dr. Stoltzfus addresses the growth process that takes place as parents and young adults reduce their reliance on each other for emotional needs and support while maintaining the necessary affiliative connections. It’s a bittersweet time of saying goodbye to parenting and hello to a different more adult-to-adult way of relating.
Challenging Situations with Young Adults
Adams, Jane. When Grown Kids Disappoint Us: Letting Go of Their Problems, Loving Them Anyway, and Getting on with Our Lives. 2013. New York: Free Press. There’s a quote in this book that I think a lot of parents of young adults feel- “No matter what I’ve accomplished in my life if I can’t say my kids turned out fine, I will feel like a failure even though nobody knows it but me.” So much pressure we as parents put on ourselves to be the perfect parent or always do the right thing with our kids and when things go wrong we suffer such terrible guilt. Good book if you are struggling and asking yourself- where did I go wrong?
Bridges, Sarah. A Bad Reaction. 2016. New York: Skyhorse Publishing. This book is by my good friend and fellow psychologist and describes the facing of a similar challenge to that of Penny Giesbrecht- see Where is God When a Child Hurts? It shows the deep love and commitment of a mother and father to the special needs of a child who had a bad reaction to an immunization. She discusses the impact both negatively and positively on her family, siblings and marriage. Hard to read but if you have faced or are facing a child with special needs and want to know you are not alone and what this mother did to raise this child into young adulthood, read this book.
Coleman, Josh. When Parents Hurt: Compassionate Strategies When You and Your Grown Child Don’t Get Along. 2008. New York: Willow Marrow. This is a great book for parents who are experiencing alienation and shut off from their young adult children. In my practice, I have seen many parents whose young adult children have cut off contact completely with their parents. It’s heartbreaking and parents feel absolutely helpless to change the situation if the young adult does not want to communicate. Good read on what you can do and not do as a parent and how to take care of yourself. Also check out his website at: www.drjoshuacoleman.com
Giesbrecht, Penny. Where Is God When A Child Suffers. 1988. Hannibal, Missouri: Hannibal Books. Written by my colleague and business partner who struggled with the challenge of an autistic child and how to square this with her Christian faith. A bold, courageous book that faces the burning questions- why me? Why my child? Where is God?
Ginsberg, Kenneth. Raising Kids to Thrive. 2015. Elk Grove Village: American Academy of Pediatrics. A well-written book covering many of the issues of raising children and adolescents. Much to learn from this but there’s a need to translate this to the young adult stage. Pediatricians as a rule don’t see children past twenty-one years but this doctor shares a lot of wisdom that can be helpful to parents of adolescents and young adults.
Isay, Jane. Walking on Eggshells. 2007. New York: Anchor Books. New York Editor, who has had her own struggles with adult children, interviews other parents of adult children to hear their stories. Contains many stories and examples of different challenges parents of adult children face. If you like to read stories or tips on how others have dealt with the parenting young adult challenges, this is a good read.
Levine, Madeline. The Price of Privilege Madeline. .2006. New York: Harper. A very good description of the problem or impact of affluence on adolescents. This is more geared to adolescents but easy to extend into the early adult period. Her point is that parental pressure (to achieve) and material advantage has created a generation of disconnected and unhappy young adults. If you have resources and “could” help your young adult but are unsure if you should or shouldn’t you may benefit from reading this.
Pickhardt, Carl. Boomerang Kids: A Revealing Look at Why So Many Of Our Children Are Failing On Their Own, and How Parents Can Help. 2011. Napierville, Illinois: Sourcebooks. Lists ten challenges young adults face and what parents can do to help with these. You could flip through the TOC and see if the challenge you are facing is address by the author. He describes the young adult stage as a time of trial independence and I would agree. For various reasons there is more opportunity for young adults to experiment than past generations. Not such a bad thing.
Pozatek, Krissy. The Parallel Process. 2011. Brooklyn, New York: Lantern Press. Good book describing the author’s experience in using a wilderness camping experience to help adolescents and young adults work on self-esteem and coping skills. The author clearly recognizes that parents are critical especially at the re-entry point when these young people come back into the home. Parents have to change as well and find ways to both tune in with expressions of love and empathy as well as set boundaries. Good description of this balancing act. Worth a read particularly if your child leaves home to enter a treatment program. More teen focused than young adult.
McCoy, Kathy. Making Peace With Your Adult Children. 2013. Self Published. Good professional advice on dealing with various issues in working through your relationship with your young adult. Contains a lot of good examples. Good section on your kids, their spouses and the grandchildren. Also check out her website and digital books to download at www.drkathymccoy.com.
Sachs, Brad E. Emptying The Nest. 2010. New York: St. Martin’s Griffen. A deep dive by one of my favorite authors into the dynamics of the young adult and the family. If you can’t seem to make sense of what is happening with the dynamics of the family, this could give you some great insight. Other resources by Brad Sachs are available at www.BradSachs.com
Sichel, Mark Ten Steps to Finding Peace After Being Cut Off from a Family Member. 2004. New York: McGraw-Hill. A deep dive through the author’s own experience and work with clients into the realm of family cutoffs. These are situations where parents or other family members cease any interaction or communication with another family member. Sometimes the cause may not be known. This is especially painful when it involves cutoffs between parents and their young adults. We desperately need connection with our parents and them with us and such cutoffs are damaging to both.
Stockman, Larry V. and Cynthia S. Graves. Grown Up Children Who Don’t Grow Up. 1994. Rocklin, California: Prima Publishing. This is something of a pre-millennial discussion of the problem of prolongation of adolescence in our society before we were beginning to identify a new stage of development- the emerging adult. Good insight into the extended dependency problem with more of a focus on the adolescent/young adults. Includes a parent’s bill of rights. And some helpful quizzes on pages 83-90 that can identify where you might be going wrong.
Young, Joel l. and Christine Adamec. When Your Adult Child Breaks Your Heart. 2013. Guilford, Connecticut. Good read for those who are dealing with serious young adult problems- criminal behavior, alcoholism and drug addiction, psychiatric problems and suicidal behavior. These are by far the toughest young adult/family problems I face in private practice. Good section on diagnosing and understanding substance abuse problems and mental health problems. Also, how to be firm and in extreme cases off cutting off contact the young adult.
Books for Therapists
Devine, Michael. Failure to Launch: Guiding Clinicians to Successfully Motivate the Long-Dependent Young Adult. 2013. New York: Jason Aronson. Good companion book to Brad Sach’s writings for clinicians working with this population. Contain specific advice on rules for living at home, contracts, consequences, etc.… The book is both conceptual in the approach but practical in terms of tactics or techniques to intervene with the young adult.
Sachs, Brad E. Emptying The Nest. 2010. New York: St. Martin’s Griffen. A deep dive by one of my favorite authors into the dynamics of the young adult and the family. If you can’t seem to make sense of what is happening with the dynamics of the family, this could give you some great insight. Other resources by Brad Sachs are available at www.BradSachs.com
Sachs, Brad E. Family-Centered Treatment With Struggling Young Adults. 2013. New York: Rutledge. There are not a large number of books for clinicians on the subject of young adults and their families. Dr. Sachs takes on this subject in a masterful way and lays out the understanding, diagnosing, and treating of young adults and their families through the ever-growing number of challenges and stuck points in the launch process. This is essential reading for any clinician working with young adults and/or their parents.
Edgette, Janet Sasson. Adolescent Therapy That Really Works. 2006. New York. W.W. Norton. This is an excellent book by a savvy therapist and writer on how to connect with difficult adolescents who likely are on their way to becoming difficult young adults. Good on dealing with resistance and not getting pulled into the typical power struggles adolescents can create. Good discussion about being flexible as a therapist and changing the approach if something isn’t working.
Books for Young Adults
Brown, Kelly Williams. Adulting: How to Become a Grown-up in 468 Easy (ish) Steps. 2013. New York: Grand Central Publishing. Contains a lot of good ideas and tips for young adults on navigating the path toward adulthood. Not sure that a young adult would read it from page one to the end, but, there are a lot of opportunities to pick and choose a topic that is relevant and read that. Somewhat humorous and tongue in cheek which might be well received by young adults.
Angone, Paul. All Grown UP: Searching for Self, Faith and a Freaking Job. 2014. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan. A good book about the struggle of a millennial told by a millennial. Struggles with relationships, work, depression, self-esteem and God. Not overly religious but a certain theme of struggling with why he is suffering and where is God in all of these young adult challenges. Many young adults wonder if they are the only one struggling with growing up issues. Read this and stop wondering.
Halpern, Howard M. Cutting Loose: An Adult’s Guide to Coming to Terms with Your Parents. 1976. New York: Simon and Schuster. This is a book that has been around for some time and one I often recommend to my young adults struggling with anger or otherwise enmeshed with their parents.
Useful and Related Books Outside of Parenting Young Adults
Brown, Brene. The Gifs of Imperfection. 2010. Center City, Minnesota: Hazelden. Well written and helpful for parents who have a lot of guilt or struggle with how they are perceived by others. This book is very good at helping one be more compassionate toward self, more authentic and vulnerable. Reads easily like a good knowledgeable fried giving you advice on how to be kind and accepting toward yourself.
Maryknool, Mary Jo Leddy. Radical Gratitude. 2002. New York: Orbis Books. The book, according to the author, is about ordinary grace, which is here for the asking. Discusses the trap of expectations, entitlement and the belief that we deserve to have our needs and desires met and when we don’t we live dissatisfaction. She says the craving we have for how things should be which can never be fully realized leads to “perpetually dissatisfaction.” Radical gratitude begins when we stop taking life for granted. This is a very good discussion of gratitude from a Christian standpoint and how to apply this to self, others and life.
Brown, Brene. Daring Greatly. 2012 New York: Penquin. This is very good on vulnerability, shame, and wholehearted parenting. Ends with a Parent Manifesto. The manifesto speaks to the reference I make to “doing one’s own report card.”
Beattie, Melody. Codependent No More. 1992. Center City, Hazelden Foundation 1992. Classic work on co-dependency and although primarily arising out of the addiction experience it applies directly to any situation in which we experience co-dependency. Her definition of a co-dependent person is one who has let another person’s behavior affect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling that person’s behavior. Can you be co-dependent on your young adult- you betcha. If you resonate to this definition in your relationship with your son or daughter or you are dealing with chemical dependency in the family, you need to get this book.
Goldsmith, Marshall. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. 2007. New York: Hyperium. Bestseller in the business world by my mentor and friend Marshall Goldsmith. In the book- Can You Speak Millennial”es?” I reference the work of Marshall Goldsmith and his concept of feedback and feed forward which you could read more about in this book. You could also check out his website- MarshallGoldsmithLibrary.com and search for feedback and feed forward to learn more on this important practice in relationships.
Lesser, Elizabeth. Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow. 2004. New York: Villard Books. This is one of my favorite authors. This could fit into the Growing Apart practice because it has a lot to do with letting go and grieving. The main theme is about change that involves loss and how we can embrace it and let it transform. Letting go of our young adults is a process of change, loss, grief and growth and she covers these themes beautifully.
Pennebaker, James W. Opening Up: The Healing Power of Expressing Emotions. 1990. New York: Guilford Press. This is a classic study of the need and value of self-disclosure and sharing with others. Lot of support for being in a small group or with some close friends when going through a tough time such as dealing with young adults. Would not recommend buying but could pick up from library and glance through it for something that speaks to you.
Siegel, Daniel Mindsight. 2010. New York: Bantam Books 2010. Best exposition on what happens in the brain when dealing with arousal- anger, fear, anxiety, etc.… and how to calm the brain. Can be a little challenging to read relative to brain science; but, worth sticking with it. Learn how to stay calm as a parent.
Small, Gary and Gigi Vorgan. Surviving the Technological Alteration of the Modern Mind. 2008. New York: Harper Collins. Somewhat frightening increase in understanding of what technology is dong to our brains and the brains of our young a people. One finding is the reduction in the size of the part of the brain that relates to empathy. Empathy often requires seeing the other person, being in their presence; but, these days social media has limited the ability to fully experience empathy from another person. Small is director of Memory and aging Research Center at UCLA.
Murphy, Mark. Hundred Percenters: Challenge Your Employees to Give It Their All and They’ll Give You Even More. 2010. New York: McGraw Hill. Why a book on business? Because the core message of good leadership is one that translates to the core aspects of parenting with love and backbone. Be challenging and Connected/Caring. Good leadership and good parenting are a lot alike.
Woititz, Janet and Alan Garner. Life skills for Adult Children. 1990. Deerfield Beach, Florida: Health Communications, Inc. The term “adult children “ is not used in the generic sense but refers to adults who are damaged in childhood and continue to act in childlike dysfunctional ways they learned as coping mechanisms in growing up. These are adult children of dysfunctional families. Often this term is used in the Chemical Dependency field to refer to adults who have grown up in alcoholic homes. Dysfunctional families are not confined to those affected by alcoholism. This is book that may have value for both the parent and the young adult and could facilitate intimate conversation and understanding.
Woititz, Janet Geringer. 1990. Deerfield Beach, Florida: Health Communications, Inc. This is a classic #1 New York Times Bestseller. If you as a parent have grown up in an alcoholic home, it’s a must read to understand the impact of this on how you function now. It will help you understand how your actions with your young adult may be coming from your childhood experience and ensnaring them in your unresolved issues. If you or your spouse have had problems with alcohol and want to understand the impact this has had on you children and how to pursue healing practices such as apology and forgiveness you may need to pursue, this book is for you.