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Recommended Parenting Books

''Our Last Best Shot -- Guiding our Children through Early Adolescence'' by Laura Sessions Stepp

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Laura Sessions Stepp

Our Last Best Shot — Guiding our Children through Early Adolescence
by Laura Sessions Stepp

When your teen or preteen son/daughter suddenly turns secretive, irritable, overly dramatic, fearful, unmotivated, etc., do you ever worry if this is normal? Ever wonder how the way you handle adolescent “moods” compares to what goes on in other families? Every parent has, which is why this insightful look at real middle schoolers living their real lives makes for fascinating reading.

For an entire year, Laura Sessions Stepp, a Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for The Washington Post, traveled across the country to observe and learn from 12 representative young adolescents from urban America (Los Angeles), a mid-sized city (Durham, NC), and rural Kansas. No fictionalized account of a “year in the life” could have been more riveting and her insight into what she’s observing will have you reflecting and taking notes.

Adolescence is the quintessential transition. For each of the kids profiled in Our Last Best Shot, those changes are experienced with varying degrees of confusion, overwhelm, and confidence. Some of their parents, grandparents, and teachers are inspirational in their steadfast love and support of the kids. Others are less exemplary, but still offer great lessons on what not to do. Rounding out the cast are some big-hearted, “I’m here ’cause I care” mentors, any one of whom you’d love to have looking out for your son or daughter.

In some ways this book reminds me of the phenomenal HBO documentary Planet Twelve which I highly recommend as a film you and your middle schooler should watch together. In fact, you can watch a preview of it right here.

As unique as each child is, universal social/emotional challenges face all young adolescents. All of them are going to make mistakes. And some of them will become so lost that it will be really hard for them to get moving in the right direction. Stepp’s key message is this: parents who provide opportunities for their kids to feel competent, loved and loving, and normal, can mean the difference between a kid getting her act together or not.

See a video of Laura Sessions Stepp talk at the University of Virginia here.

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