Books Can Help Parents Discuss Tough Topics with Teens
Have you ever tried having a discussion with your teen or pre-teen about tough topics such as dating, sex, alcohol, drugs or weight?
Teens often put up a wall that prevents this type of conversation. Maybe they’re too embarrassed or afraid to reveal what they and their friends are doing. You may also be reluctant to bring up such topics. Yet parents can give kids crucial information that can keep them safe or make informed decisions if their peers engage in risky behavior.
Books can really help. When you read the same title that your child is reading, it gives you an entrée to talk about themes that appear in the pages — without the pressure of discussing either of your personal details.
When the girls in our mother-daughter book club read Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (Perfection Learning, $19.25), my daughter and Icould discuss the difficult topic of date rape and the role of alcohol in it. We brainstormed ways the main character could have kept safe while at a party. This was a non-confrontational way to discuss situations the girls may face as they entered high school.
When you discuss actions by a book character, your child can also bring up concerns you never knew she had. Talking about these actions is a non-threatening way to gain insight into her world.
You may hear about the topic again months later, when your child encounters a similar situation in real life. Once you’ve broken the ice, it’s easier for you or your child to refer back to an earlier discussion. That paves the way for honest communication about even more issues in thefuture.
Other Books and Topics
In addition to Speak, here are important topics for tweens or teens and novels that discuss them.
• Adoption and identity issues: Kimchi and Calamari by Rose Kent (HarperCollins, $15.99)
• Drinking alcohol: Amazing Grace by Megan Shull (Hyperion, online for less than $5)
• Friendship and popularity concerns: Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli (Laurel Leaf, $6.99) and Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen (Ember, $8.99)
• Strained mother-daughter relationships: The Healing Spell by Kimberley Griffiths Little (Scholastic Paperbacks, $5.99) and Trauma Queen by Barbara Dee (Aladdin, $6.99)
• Teen girls considering having sex: The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares (Ember, $9.99) and Ready or Not by Meg Cabot (HarperTeen, $8.99)
• Weight and body issues: Artichoke’s Heart by Suzanne Supplee (Speak, $7.99) and Monsoon Summer by Mitali Perkins (Laurel Leaf, online for less than $5)
• Trouble caused by online mistakes: The Curse of Addy McMahon by Katie Davis (Greenwillow, $16.99) and How to Survive Middle School by Donna Gephart (Yearling, $6.99).
Cindy Hudson is the author of Book by Book: The Complete Guide to Creating Mother-Daughter Book Clubs (Seal Press, $16.95), www.MotherDaughterBookClub.com