Book Review: Finding My Way: A Teen’s Guide to Living With a Parent Who Has Experienced Trauma
March 1, 2008
Today’s teens face many of their own crises and potentially traumatic events: from the death of classmates from murder (e.g., recent killings at Virginia Tech in April 2007), to automobile accidents, and natural disasters (e.g., the deaths of students after tornadoes hit their high school in Enterprise, Alabama in March 2007). Other teens may experience the suicide of a close friend of myriad abuses such as child sexual abuse, neglect, physical abuse, or date rape.
While the traumas listed above are direct and personal, countless other teens face a different type of traumatic life: they live with one or more parents who has been the victim of trauma. These parents may suffer their own consequences of exposure, including acute stress reactions, post-traumatic stress reactions, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other co-morbid conditions.
Finding My Way: A Teen’s Guide to Living With a Parent Who Has Experienced Trauma is the first book written specifically for these children. Written in understandable language that appeals to the middle school and high school students alike, the book includes excellent poetic illustrations of themes and symptoms of traumatic reactions. The text also includes descriptions of adjacent symptoms (such as social anxiety, depression, and survivor’s guilt) so that students can understand what it is their parents deal with and what their symptoms mean.
The book includes concise information on treatment of trauma, beginning with an introduction of what therapists do. In future editions, this section could be expanded to describe what happens in trauma-oriented therapy in more detail. Teens frequently yearn for information and want reasons why or explanations about the symptoms they see, hear, and experience. One section of the book gives teens the opportunity to ask questions while another offers incomplete sentences for teens to complete. Sharing these sentences and questions with parents, perhaps in a therapy session, could be very helpful to teens and parent(s) alike. The book also examines some of the associated emotional responses that accompany traumatic reactions including anger, shame, sadness, and fear. Expanding this section to include the role of emotions as information could also be helpful for teens.
The book also examines coping mechanisms for teens, including doing something physical and having fun, as well as helping others. Assisting teens to find meaning and direction for their experiences is discussed as a positive way to enable them to strive toward resilience. Chapters also cover nicely what to tell friends and ways to support parents. In addition, teens are presented with scenarios for ways to cope and lessen feelings of responsibility.
This book offers a beginning introduction to the topic of dealing with traumatized parents. For teens who already possess that beginning knowledge, a second, more in-depth look at appropriate topics might be developed to consider topics such as dissociation and the impact of trauma on the brain and on survivors. Further, a follow-up book could also discuss trauma-related illnesses that frequently plague parents directly and have an impact their children indirectly, such as: fibromyalgia, irritable bowel, chronic fatigue, and others. The authors have also written a second book I’m Not Alone: A Teen’s Guide to Living with A Parent Who Has a Mental Illness.
The authors are to be commended for writing this book. The accessible text opens doors for discussion, leads to possible group sessions by providing a potential workbook format, and includes lessons learned.
Authors: Michelle D. Sherman, Ph.D. & DeAnne M Sherman, published 2002