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June 2003: Tools for Parents Lecture Series, Seattle, WA


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The Seven-Year Stretch: How Families Work Together to Grow Through Adolescence, by Laura S. Kastner and Jennifer F. Wyatt (Houghton Mifflin Co., 1997)

Viewing adolescence in the context of the family, The Seven-Year Stretch is the first book to show parents how and why some teenagers end up well adjusted while others end up in trouble. Why are some teens impulsive rule-breakers, while others seem more mindful of right and wrong? Why do some turn to drugs and alcohol regularly, while others experiment only on occasion? Why are some families constantly battling, while others have only minor conflicts? How can parents distinguish between normal rebellion and deeper problems? Laura Kastner, Ph.D., and Jennifer Wyatt, Ph.D., introduce us to a range of families - from thriving to struggling - and explain how their behavior patterns, past and present, affect the teenager's development. Garnered from Dr. Kastner's clinical and teaching experience, these true-to-life stories and dialogues illustrate the impact of such factors as clashing parenting styles, the temperaments of parents and children, parents' own unresolved issues, marital dynamics, and circumstances such as divorce, financial stress, and cultural differences. With optimism and creativity, the authors explain how parents can harness their family strengths to face today's challenges for adolescents. They look beyond the "shoulds," describing what different parenting approaches look like and sound like in action.

Reviews of The Seven-Year Stretch

From Publisher's Weekly
Kastner, a family therapist, and freelancer Wyatt delineate vignettes, described as "fictionalized composites," of the most common areas of contention that develop between teens and their parents. Chapters follow adolescent development and deal with such topics as trust, character and sexuality, culminating in the child's entry into the world as a responsible human being. With descriptions of challenges frequently posed by adolescents, from light infractions such as a one-time-only curfew violation to the serious concerns raised by chronic truancy and bulimia, and strategies parents can respond with, teenage behavior is considered in light of a family's overall dynamic. Some problems may go beyond Junior, reflecting family patterns handed down from a previous generation (what's known as a family-of-origin issue). The authors surmise that a teen's every misstep involves a blend of factors: trust, independence, control and freedom. The effects of divorce and step-parenting are discussed, but only briefly. While a book design with more subheads might make for easier reading, the authors' conversational, anecdotal and holistic approach has something to offer nearly all parents of teens, even if it's simply confirmation of their own techniques.

From Library Journal

Kastner (psychiatry and behavioral sciences, Univ. of Washington) and writer Wyatt, both of whom are parents of two children, examine the dynamics of adolescent growth within the family. Each of eight chapters deals separately with a major developmental area of adolescence: trust, freedom, a concept of self, character, social skills, sexuality, risk-taking, and launching. In discussing how adolescents achieve each of these goals, the authors concentrate on the family dynamics involved. Taking a wholistic approach, they argue cogently that "to understand what's going on with an individual, we need to explore the network of relationships of which he or she is a part." Sample vignettes are drawn from families who function at various levels, from healthy to very unhealthy. This work should prove to be a valuable resource to both parents and others, including educators, who work with adolescents. Highly recommended for all public and undergraduate libraries.Kay L. Brodie, Chesapeake Coll., Wye Mills., Md.

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