book cover

Our Last Best Shot: Guiding Our Children Through Early Adolescence

by Laura Sessions Stepp

  • Hardcover - 352 pages
  • Published by Riverhead Books
  • Publication date: June 15, 2000
  • Dimensions (in inches): 1.17 x 9.27 x 6.26
  • ISBN: 1573221600

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KidSource OnLine Book Review

Our Last Best Shot: Guiding Our Children Through Early Adolescence by Laura Sessions Stepp is a wonderful guide to help parents who are trying to help young children navigate early adolescence and chose a path that will lead to healthy, responsible adulthood. Ms. Sessions Stepp introduces us to twelve ten-to-fifteen year-olds and their families from different places around the country. While reading about these families, most people are likely to see something they can relate to, as a child, or a parent.

Several times while reading this book I was reminded of my own youth, and how much I wanted an adult to be proud of me, accept me for who I was, and listen to my insecurities about my body, my grades, my dreams, and my perceived inability to control the changes happening in my life. I also felt closer to my eldest daughter, now 8, who is struggling to fit into a new peer group, and has started asking very big questions about sex, life, and spirituality - the questions she must answer to become a conscious adult.

Ms. Sessions Stepp gives advice is practical and can be easily tailored to your particular situation. In general, she says early adolescence is partly about loss. We are losing our children, they are losing their innocence, but they are gaining a stronger sense of who they are, and we are offered front row seats. Ms. Sessions Stepp encourages parents to:

-- Nancy Brown, Ph.D.

From the Inside Jacket Cover

In her powerful argument on how to raise our young adolescents, Laura Sessions Stepp helps us navigate this critical age, this last, best shot at helping our youngsters grow up to be responsible, happy adults. Ten- to fifteen-year-olds are often dismissed as moody, baffling creatures. Yet the years through which they pass-developmentally very different from the later teenage years-are perhaps the most critical time in the human life cycle, a fateful juncture at which unmatched physical and intellectual growth, expanding creativity, emerging moral sensibilities, awakening sexuality, and maturing emotions powerfully converge. Amid all this change it is easy for parents of younger adolescents to feel unsure of what constitutes "normal" behavior; too often they can fail to distinguish between behaviors that signal healthy growth and those that indicate real trouble. Without understanding the difference, they are in danger of forfeiting their greatest opportunity to effect changes.

A Pulitizer Prize-winning journalist and herself the mother of a young adolescent son, Laura Sessions Stepp was working on a series of award-winning articles on young adolescents and was surprised by the dearth of information about his defining stage of life. After research the existing scientific literature and conferring with social scientists and educators, she set out across the country to meet and observe young people and their families over the course of a year.

In Our Last Best Shot, we meet twelve representative girls and boys, in urban America (Los Angeles), a mid size city (Durham, North Carolina), and a rural mid-western town (Ulysses, Kansas). Through their stories, and through Stepp's extensive research, we gain invaluable advice about how to bring up well-adjusted children in these difficult times. Stepp instructs parents and educators about what to look out for in their children's homes, their friends' homes, and in their schools and neighborhoods. She reveals how to spot not only signs of promise but also signs of danger. And perhaps most important, she advises when and how adults must intervene-to encourage growth as well as prevent trouble. Filled with wisdom and common-sense, base on cutting-edge research and featuring an invaluable resources list, Our Last Best Shot is a book parents and educators cannot afford to be without.

Other Descriptions

If you're someone who opens a book to read the last chapter first, you won't be disappointed by what you find in Our Last Best Shot: Guiding Our Children Through Early Adolescence. The final chapter, "Some Concluding Thoughts," offers sharp insights into the early adolescent years. "Early adolescence is partly about loss," writes author Laura Sessions Stepp. "Parents lose their children's unquestioning adoration; kids lose their innocence, and sometimes their faith in adults." She adds observations on a wide variety of topics--communication, respect, responsibility, and the influence of other adults--that can be used as a road map for parents trying to help their children navigate these years with success.

If you're looking for a book based solely on academic research and written by an expert, this one may not satisfy. However, Sessions Stepp, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for the Washington Post, uses her keen observation and interviewing skills to uncover the world of today's young adolescents. After two years of conducting numerous in-depth interviews and extensive research into current developmental theory, she seamlessly combines the two in a book that is both engaging and authoritative. One of the most important points Stepp makes is in regard to the rapidity of growth--emotional, physical, and intellectual--that young adolescents undergo. She writes of recent research, "I was fascinated to be told that adolescence is a time of growth and change rivaling infancy in its speed and accomplishments." This relatively recent revelation gives an urgency to her argument that adolescence is "our last best shot" at helping kids grow into successful adults. Considering the value and likeability of this often overlooked age group, Stepp's wisdom and insights will benefit anyone who cares about and works with young adolescents. Our Last Best Shot is an opportunity to look at today's teens in a new light and see futures filled with hope and possibility. - Review