New and forthcoming books offer parents ways to cope with some of the issues kids face today, as well as questions they have surrounding gender roles, forgiveness, trauma, and addiction. Authors from a variety of faith backgrounds are underscoring the importance of communication and encouraging parents to have open discussions with their children about complex topics in ways that reflect their own values. A big roadblock to communication between parents and young adults has to do with digital distractions, or “technoference” as it’s called in the media.

Nevertheless, listening and being heard are essential starting places for effective parenting, says Carolyn McCready, acquisitions editor for Zondervan. “One word describes millions of young people today better than any other: overwhelmed,” she adds. “Many parents see the stress of their kids but have no idea how to connect with them in order to support and equip them.”

Extreme academic pressure, unrealistic expectations, school shootings, and lack of outdoor time have led to what McCready calls a change in the landscape of adolescence today. To address those changes, Zondervan is releasing Live Love Now: Relieve the Pressure and Find Real Connection with Our Kids (Zondervan, Apr. 2020) by Rachel Macy Stafford, who combines personal parenting stories with strategies on how to become a relevant and trustworthy role model for young people in an effort to shape them into compassionate and resilient adults. “Rachel suggests it’s best if we admit right now that we do not have the answers,” McCready says, “but if we are willing to live a life anchored by truth, connection, presence, acceptance, and if we are willing to live love, there is great hope.”

Directly addressing a variety of big questions kids have about the world today, Chalice Press recently published When Kids Ask Hard Questions: Faith-Filled Responses for Tough Topics, which provides suggestions for conversations and further resources related to 30 culturally relevant topics—including gun control, body image, bullying, racism, and suicide. The book was edited by Bromleigh McCleneghan, associate pastor at Union Church of Hinsdale in suburban Chicago, and Karen Ware Jackson, co–senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Greenville, N.C. “The goal of this book is to equip you for these tough conversations with the children in your life,” Jackson writes in the introduction. “The world can be a confusing and painful place for children (and adults), but take heart! Your kids are listening to you.”

Raising a Strong Daughter in a Toxic Culture: 11 Steps to Keeping Her Healthy, Happy, and Safe (Regnery, Dec.) by Meg Meeker, the bestselling author of 2006’s Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters, draws on the author’s experience as a pediatrician as well as biblical principles to instruct parents on how to guard young girls from what the publisher calls the “overwhelming social dangers” of today. These include temptations to lead a life that is not Christ centered: “Our daughters might be smart and kind, they might be great businesswomen and wonderful mothers, but unless they understand their purpose in life and see it as something bigger than themselves, they will not ultimately be happy,” Meeker writes. “And that begins with teaching them that their lives are not all about them... [but] about serving God.”

What We Will Become: A Mother, a Son, and a Journey of Transformation by Mimi Lemay (HMH, Nov.) depicts the author’s struggle with her Jewish faith as she learned how to support her son’s gender transition. Nicole Angeloro, editor at HMH, says the book shows that one doesn’t need to choose between faith and acceptance of the LGBTQ community. “Mimi reclaiming the rich heritage of her Jewish faith on her own terms is one of the key elements in the Lemay family’s journey,” she says. “I think—and hope—many people will relate to loving and respecting the faith traditions they come from while also needing to make sense of the world as they experience it in their own way.”

In The Gift of Forgiveness: Inspiring Stories from Those Who Have Overcome the Unforgivable by Katherine Schwarzenegger Pratt (Viking/Dorman, Mar. 2020), the daughter of actor and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger collects tales of parents, children, and others who have dealt with disappointment and betrayal with help from their faith. Pratt includes personal struggles with forgiveness as well as the stories of Elizabeth Smart, who learned to forgive her captors; Sue Klebold, whose son, Dylan, was one of the Columbine shooters; Chris Williams, who forgave the drunken teenager who killed his wife and child; and Sebastian Marroquin, whose father was Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar.

Written from a mother’s perspective, A Prayer for Orion: A Son’s Addiction and a Mother’s Love by Katherine James (IVP, Jan. 2020) examines the opioid crisis as well as the challenges that come with raising a wayward child. “While it touches on big contemporary issues, it doesn’t offer easy answers, but instead offers readers a look into the pain and beauty of loving a child,” says Ethan McCarthy, associate editor at IVP.

This month, IVP will also release Separated by the Border: A Birth Mother, a Foster Mother, and a Migrant Child’s 3,000-Mile Journey by Gena Thomas. It tells the story of Julia, a five-year-old Honduran girl who became an unaccompanied minor after being separated from her parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. “Her mother was trafficked and her stepfather was deported—Julia is the human face behind the headlines and the news stories of kids in detention cages and the trauma they experience,” says Al Hsu, senior editor at IVP.

Separated by the Border provides a behind-the-scenes look at the foster care process and at the challenges that children experience following traumatic events. “Foster parents in particular will gain a better understanding of what to expect when fostering children from traumatic backgrounds, and the author provides suggestions and best practices for caring well for these children,” Hsu says.

A third title from IVP, Mother to Son: Letters to a Black Boy on Identity and Hope by Jasmine L. Holmes (Mar. 2020), features a collection of letters from Holmes to her son about her experiences as an African-American Christian and the spiritual truths she lives by. While probing the topic of race in America, Holmes also addresses discipleship, marriage, and biblical justice. “As I teach you these lessons, I pray that they don’t come from a place of bitterness or a life ruled by fear,” she writes. “I have to visualize the man that you’ll become and I must prepare you to face the world in his skin.”

Parenting can be hard, and struggle is inevitable in every child’s life, but readers are increasingly seeking information on how to educate themselves and their children about thorny issues in hopes that it might lead to a greater sense of compassion and understanding.

“Parents can’t thwart every threat their kids might encounter,” Zondervan’s McCready says, “but they can empower their kids with awareness about and support for the complexities of the world they—and we—are living in.”