Book Review: “Getting to Calm: Cool-headed Strategies for Parenting Tweens and Teens”

We are featuring our first author interview!!! Parenthetical team members, Becky and Libby, had the pleasure of interviewing author Laura Kastner.  Dr. Kastner co-wrote one of our favorite parenting books for parents of tweens and teens called: Getting to Calm: Cool-headed Strategies for Parenting Tweens and Teens.  Today we’re sharing a book review of Getting to Calm written by a Family Living Educator who is also the mom of a teen.  Next week, we’ll post video excerpts of our interview with Dr. Kastner!

Getting to Calm CoverWhile raising teens has never been simple, the book Getting to Calm: Cool-headed Strategies for Parenting Tweens and Teens by Laura Kastner and Jennifer Wyatt helps parents to recognize that they themselves, their child and their families are embarking upon a shared journey.  It is a powerful and thought-provoking guidebook, grounded in real life, which can assist parents as they prepare and anticipate the unique issues and needs of adolescent children. Parents, grandparents or anyone else helping raise a teen can read it cover to cover, or turn to a section as needed and really feel prepared and more comfortable with normal (and challenging) adolescent issues and development.

Kastner, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, and Wyatt a professional writer weave together experience, research, tools and strategies with “down to earth” talk about developmental and day-to-day issues.  Using humor and empathy, each chapter contains examples of real family stories, including dialogues between parent and teen where conversations sometimes go well, and sometimes do not. It is almost as if the authors can hear parents’ thoughts or are standing right there in the midst of families. Following each chapter, the authors take the opportunity to engage the reader in thinking about communication strategies, as well as the practicalities of how to establish and enforce consequences.  Kastner and Wyatt recognize the struggles that parents and teens sometimes experience across the normal course of development to young adulthood.

The book touches on many of the major issues common to preteens, teens and parents, while emphasizing the importance of maintaining closeness and connection. The first chapter entitled “When Your Sweet Child Morphs into a Sassy Teen” was particularly comforting when my lovely little princess morphed into the “Wicked Witch of the West” during her twelfth year. The book opens with an empathetic nod toward the plight of parents, acknowledging how teen  rudeness can deflate and deflect parents’ attempts to connect and communicate.  The text goes on to describe the amazing growth in independence and identity formation that can explain the “attitude.”  Kastner and Wyatt share helpful insights for limiting and guiding behavior while remaining “calm” and fostering connection.  The book’s title comes from the acronym CALM (for example, C = cool down and breathe deeply), which the authors offer as an memory device to help parents manage anger and hurt when confronted with rudeness, back talk, or slamming doors.  Like an older neighbor, this book gives parents the support and coping techniques to handle things in a more calm and responsive way.

As an Extension Family Living Educator and the parent of a young teen daughter, I found this book extremely engaging and well-researched.  I keep it nearby for quick review. These issues come up every day, and I find that reading a section now and again helps me keep my head in the game so that I am able to think more clearly – and calmly!

Have you read Getting to Calm?

What books do you find most helpful in your parenting?


Article by Bridget Mouchon

Bridget is a Family Living Educator for the University of Wisconsin-Extension in Green County.  Her programs focus on helping families build strength and resilience through parenting and relationship skills, including building support for the Latino community in her county.