When I found out I was pregnant and for a few years after, I devoured every parenting book I could find. I liked knowing what was going to happen and when to expect it, what was typical and what signs may indicate a problem.

After a few years, I found my confidence as a mom, had a routine in place, and thought I knew what I was doing (bahahahahaha!).

Then my kids became tweens, and everything changed. There were tears, there were mood swings, there were large amounts of ‘tude and eye rolls—from them and from me.

RELATED: The Truth About Parenting Teens is We’re All Faking it

We had to learn how to deal with friend drama, manage the pressures of academics, sports, and other extracurricular activities, control social media and phone use, and educate on modern dangers such as vaping, internet challenges, online predators, and unrealistic body expectations.

And I thought having “the talk” would be the hardest part of raising big kids.

I felt as lost raising teenagers as I did when holding my newborn for the first time. It was so much harder than I thought it would be.

When I was in a particularly challenging place with one of my daughters, a friend left a book in my mailbox with a note that said, “Read this. I promise it will help.”

And it did. I read Lisa Damour’s book Untangled in two days, and instantly started feeling my parenting confidence return again. Even though I was a teenage girl myself way back when, I did not fully understand how adolescents’ brains worked. I didn’t know how to deal with her mood swings, anxiety, or incessant drama. I was unsure how to manage the unrelenting pressure she put on herself or how to best communicate with her.

The book empowered me to be a better parent for my teenager, and now that I’m raising three teenagers at once, I devour every one I can get my hands on. I listen to them when I walk the dog, read them on my Kindle as I’m waiting to pick a kid up from practice, or keep them on my nightstand for ready access.

If you are feeling lost or unsure or at the end of your rope, I get it. I’ve been there, too. So, I asked my friends who are currently raising teens, and here are the books they recommend, the ones that have helped them through their challenges and struggles.

Parenting teens can be a very lonely place. No one wants to talk about how their teenaged son put a fist through a wall or their daughter stole their credit card. No one wants to share what they found when they checked the photos on their kid’s phone or how their sophomore is flunking history. No one posts about how they found out that their kid is cutting or seeking treatment for depression.

No one talks about how hard it is.

But you are not alone. I hope these books help you build a stronger bond with your teenager. Don’t ever give up—on them or yourself.

(Note: As a parent of teens, we know you’re busy. Most of these titles come in an Audible version for easy listening on the go. Try it for free, here.)

When boys enter puberty, they tend to get quiet—or at least quieter than before—and parents often misread their signals. Here’s how to navigate their retreat and steer them through this confusing passage, by the bestselling author of The Care and Keeping of You series and Guy Stuff: The Body Book for Boys.

 

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A New York Times bestseller, Untangled is an award-winning guide to the sometimes erratic and confusing behavior of teenage girls that explains what’s going on, prepares parents for what’s to come, and lets them know when it’s time to worry.
 
Consider reading Under Pressure, the companion guide to coping with stress and anxiety among girls, after Untangled.

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Drawing on her research, knowledge, and clinical experience, internationally respected neurologist—and mother of two boys—Frances E. Jensen, MD, offers a revolutionary look at the adolescent brain, providing remarkable insights that translate into practical advice both for parents and teenagers.

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A practical guide to understanding teens from bestselling author and global youth advocate Josh Shipp. In 2015, Harvard researchers found that every child who does well in the face of adversity has had at least one stable and committed relationship with a supportive adult. But Josh Shipp didn’t need Harvard to know that. Once an at-risk foster kid, he was headed straight for trouble until he met the man who changed his life: Rodney, the foster parent who refused to quit on Shipp and got him to believe in himself.

Now, in The Grown-Up’s Guide to Teenage Humans, Shipp shows all of us how to be that caring adult in a teenager’s life. Stressing the need for compassion, trust, and encouragement, he breaks down the phases of a teenage human from sixth to twelfth grade, examining the changes, goals, and mentality of teenagers at each stage.

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The middle school years are filled with both potential and challenges. Parenting Middle Schoolers will help parents navigate this unique season of life. The authors draw from their own experience as middle school pastors, interviews with parents, and experts in various fields, as they consider five issues that are common among middle schoolers: relationships; technology; balancing extracurriculars and gathering with the church; ministry and missions; and conversion and baptism.

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Yesterday, your child was a sweet, well-adjusted 8-year-old. Today, a moody, disrespectful 12-year-old. What happened? And more important, how do you handle it? How you respond to these whirlwind changes will not only affect your child’s behavior now but will determine how he or she turns out later. Julie A. Ross, executive director of Parenting Horizons, shows you exactly what’s going on with your child and provides all the tools you need to correctly handle even the prickliest tween porcupine.

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Brad Marshall, The Unplugged Psychologist, is on the front line helping parents deal with the dominance of gaming and problematic technology use. His clinic, the Internet Addiction Clinic @ Kidspace, was one of the first in Australia established to help young children, teenagers and families whose lives are totally torn apart by technology.

The Tech Diet for your Child and Teen provides real-life strategies that any parent can implement to create a healthy balance and put your kids’ development first. Based on solid psychological research explaining why screen addiction is so powerful, Brad’s jargon-free advice gives a clear plan for parents who have had enough and are serious about changing the way their kids use and interact with technology.

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Thanks to social media, these desires now get channeled online. Girls can curate an image, build a following, and test-drive identities until they find one that draws attention and applause. But in this quest to be liked and noticed, girls often fail to feel loved and known. The result is a generation of girls who hunger for real and authentic relationships—yet are unclear on how to create them. From popular blogger and bestselling author Kari Kampakis comes a powerful book for girls in the digital age. Designed to empower teens and tweens through the Christian faith, it’s packed with godly wisdom and practical advice related to identity, friendships, social media, and a relationship with God. 

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Learn about the “New Teen” and how to adjust your parenting approach. Kids are growing up with nearly unlimited access to social media and the internet, and unprecedented academic, social, and familial stressors. Starting as early as eight years old, children are exposed to information, thought, and emotion that they are developmentally unprepared to process. As a result, saving the typical “teen parenting” strategies for 13-year-olds is now years too late. Also check out The Available Parent: Expert Advice for Raising Successful and Resilient Teens & Tweens by the same author.

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A change has occurred—youth sports have been professionalized and there has been a perversion of potential. It has become scholarships over development, trophies over toughness, and talent over tenacity. The professionalization has created an environment of externally driven, perfectionist, and stressed competitors. Parenting athletes also requires such a vast amount of sacrifice both emotionally and financially. This book will help you empower your kids to build their mental toughness.

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Parenting a pre-teen or teen? Time to “Suck it up, Buttercup.” There is no way around the fact that for some parents the teen years mean dealing with Good Kids Doing Bad Things. The bad ranges from those little lies, that one shoplifting episode, loving the wrong guy or gal, to a major problem with drinking and drugging, or suicidal depression. Effect real change in the behavior of your adolescent with the adaptable techniques you’ll find in this book.

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In her groundbreaking book, Queen Bees and Wannabes, Empower cofounder Rosalind Wiseman takes you inside the secret world of girls’ friendships. Wiseman has spent more than a decade listening to thousands of girls talk about the powerful role cliques play in shaping what they wear and say, how they respond to boys, and how they feel about themselves. In this candid, insightful book, she dissects each role in the clique: Queen Bees, Wannabes, Messengers, Bankers, Targets, Torn Bystanders, and more. She discusses girls’ power plays, from birthday invitations to cafeteria seating arrangements and illicit parties. She takes readers into “Girl World” to analyze teasing, gossip, and reputations; beauty and fashion; alcohol and drugs; boys and sex; and more, and how cliques play a role in every situation.

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Whitney Fleming

Whitney is a mom of three teen daughters, a communications consultant, and blogger. She tries to dispel the myth of being a typical suburban mom although she is often driving her minivan to soccer practices and attending PTA meetings. She writes about parenting, relationships, and w(h)ine on her blog Playdates on Fridays.