Book Review: When Will My Grown-Up Kid Grow Up?

From time to time, we like to review some of the books available for parents of college students.  There is a wealth of literature available to help parents cope with the transition to college and the changes that occur throughout the college years.  We’ve created lists of recommended reading, and there is something for everyone.  See our Resources and Tools page for suggestions.

When Will My Grown-Up Kid Grow Up?: Loving and Understanding Your Emerging Adult is, in some respects, a sequel to Dr. Arnett’s book, Emerging Adulthood: The Winding Road from the Late Teens through the Twenties.  This groundbreaking book describes the lives of our ”children” from late teens through the late twenties (later than many of us might have thought) as a unique time in their lives — more than adolescents yet not quite adults.  It is a wonderful description of this stage of life and for many parents describes exactly the life and mental attitude of their children.

When Will My Grown-Up Kid Grow Up? Picks up this story more specifically for parents.  We especially like that this book addresses, in chapter two, parents’ development as well.  We often focus so much on our children at this stage that we forget that we are experiencing a new phase of life as well.  ”OK, now that you know your kids may not be fully grown up until about age 30, what about you?  This is a book not just about your kids’ development, but about your development, too, as you enter a new stage of life.”

As parents of college aged children, we need to be reminded that we are also entering a phase of transition as our children move out and become increasingly independent.  Documenting this parallel journey is an important feature of this book.

We recommend this book for college parents, but this book explores the phase of emerging adulthood well beyond the college years.  A quick look at the chapters of the book indicates the breadth of topics covered: relationships, boomerang kids (moving back home), financial issues, romantic relationships including marriage (or not), career choices, religion and spirituality, and a deeper exploration of the serious crises that some young adults may encounter.  Dr. Arnett stresses that most emerging adults do emerge from this phase, but it is crucial that the book explores the serious issues that some young adults face which they may never overcome.  This chapter is perhaps one of the most important in the book.

Parents of emerging adults will find this book useful.  We recommend it.  However, if you have time to read only one book, we also recommend Dr. Arnett’s first book.  Although it has less advice (and advice is always useful),  it is more comprehensive in its description of this phase of development.  After reading either book, you will fell that you know and understand your student better.

About the authors:

Jeffrey Jensen Arnett is a Research Professor in the Department of Psychology at Clark University and coined the term ”emerging adulthood” and is author of the book Emerging Adulthood: The Winding Road from the Late Teens Through the Twenties.  He has also taught at the University of Missouri and has been a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. He is the executive director of the Society for the Study of Emerging Adulthood.

Arnett has two children, twins Miles and Paris, born in 1999, and his wife, Lene Jensen, is also a professor at Clark. He has appeared on television and frequently in print media, including a cover story in the New York Times Sunday magazine in August, 2010.

Elizabeth Fishel is the author of Sisters, Reunion, I Swore I’d Never Do That, and The Men in Our Lives.  She is a journalist who has written for several magazines and newspapers.

What the authors have to say about the book:

Elizabeth — ”I found Jeff’s research at exactly the right time.  Nate was just graduating from college and beginning to make his way into the world; Will was starting college and a new life three thousand miles away.  Their worlds were filled with dreams and opportunities, as well as indecision, drama and occasional chaos.  Jeff’s road map gave me hope and confidence.  Being in constant flux is what emerging adults do, and understanding that reality immediately helped me relax as a parent.

When we met and decided to collaborate I felt we could create together exactly the guidebook I had dreamed of having.  And with my sons still working their way through their twenties, I knew I would not run out of personal material.

Jeff –  ”I’ve spoken to hundreds of parents about emerging adulthood in the past decade, and nearly every time parents approach me afterward and thank me for helping them understand where their children are at.  Many of them have children who are struggling to find a place in the world, and just knowing what is normal comes as a great relief.  They are comforted to know that it is common for 18 — to 29-year-olds to have a period of years when the way forward is uncertain.  And they find hope when they hear that nearly all emerging adults settle into the stable commitments of adulthood by their late twenties or early thirties.

. . . We hope we’ve written a book that will serve as a helpful guide to parents as their children make their way through this fascinating, eventful, sometimes confusing and exasperating, often wonderful time of life.

We would sum up our message this way.  Years ago, Dr. Spock counseled new parents, ”Trust yourself.  You know more than you think you do.”  This time, trust yourself and your children.  They may careen or falter or dash forward only to fall back.  But eventually, nearly all of them will find their way.  We offer this book to help you find your way along with them.”

What others have to say about the book:

”Wise, very concrete help for parents trying to find the elusive middle ground between biting their tongues and remaining actively involved with the life dilemmas of their emerging adult children.”

Philip and Carolyn Cowan, professor emeriti, University of California, Berkeley


”A timely guide for parents who are navigating their children’s transition to adulthood — helpful, hopeful, and engaging.”

Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, Ph.D., Teachers College, Columbia University


“For parents who are caught up in the struggle to stay connected while pulling back during their kid’s journey to adulthood, this book provides a frank, factual, and fearless look at the road ahead.”
                                                                        ”More” magazine


”Parenting kids in their twenties takes tact, patience, and wisdom.  If you find you are running out of all three, you must read When Will My Grown-Up Kid Grow Up? This is the book parents have been waiting for.  It will restore your confidence and lift your spirits.”

Michael Thompson, Ph.D., coauthor of ”Raising Cain”

Note: Some links in our post are for affiliate products. If you use our links, College Parent Central receives a small percentage of your purchase price. This does not change the cost to you.  We think it’s only fair to let you know that.

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