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“Your Turn – How to be an Adult” a Must Read for Parents and Young Adults

When I heard about the new book Your Turn: How to Be an Adult by Julie Lythcott-Haims, I jumped at the chance to read it with my son. I’m proud to partner with her on the launch of this book. My son will be heading off to college in the fall and needs all the “adulting” help he can get.

How to be an adult book

He’s in the typical teenager phase of rolling his eyes when mom or dad tries to give him advice. I was surprised and so happy that he agreed to read this book with me. He’s learned a lot and we’re discussing topics we haven’t before. It’s been a fantastic bonding experience. The experience of reading the book together is one I’d recommend for any parent of a young adult.

How to Be an Adult – the old fashioned way

Lythcott-Haims starts by explaining how the steps to adulthood are so much different these days. For generations, these included:

  • Get an education
  • Get a job
  • Leave home
  • Get married
  • Have children

Today, it’s really up to each person to decide what “adulting” means to them. Lythcott-Haims explains, “It’s realizing that you can do whatever you want and then dealing with the consequences.” I LOVE THIS!! Why have I not been saying this to my kids for years?

My son rolled his eyes. He’s too used to mom and dad coming to the rescue when things get tough. This book helped explain that pretty soon; it’s all on him.

How to be an Adult – Fend for yourself

One of my favorite parts of the book is the idea that being an adult means fending for oneself. Lythcott-Haims outlines the 9 basics of fending (12). I laughed out loud when it came to #6 – Keep Track of Your Stuff. Even my son giggled because he knows how often he can’t find anything without my help.


I love that Lythcott-Haims not only gives excellent advice but also provides narratives from a wide variety of people from all walks of life. People of different races, gender identities, mental health challenges, and religious backgrounds are just a few. I think it really helped open my son’s eyes to the diverse community around him. She is very focused on being inclusive in her work. Anyone reading this book is likely to relate to someone who is “like them” in some way.

Tag, Your It

My own story could have been shared in the “Tag, Your It!” Chapter. I had to take on adult responsibilities far too early in my life. A single mother raised me with MS and clinical depression. I had to become the mom of the house in many ways. My kids are somewhat aware of what I went through, but nowhere near reality.

Stop Pleasing Others

My son was significantly impacted by the chapter called “Stop Pleasing Others.” He’s never seemed like a kid who cared about what other people think but chatting about this chapter brought up some issues we’ve never discussed.

Lythcott-Haims says, “Go in the direction your voice tells you to do.” I explained to my son that the first time I listened to my voice was applying to college and leaving home. I’d always seen college as a way out of my situation. After that, I explained to him; I had no idea what I was doing.

He seemed very relieved to hear this. He also feels a sense of achievement about getting into a good school and voiced concern about pleasing my husband and me and making the wrong choices. This book helped explain that everyone goes through a time in their lives where they think, “I have no idea what I’m doing” phase in life and that you’ll never please everyone. In the end, you have to please yourself.

How to be an Adult – When Will I know?

Toward the end of the book, Lythcott-Haims shares Shaun’s story, an Australian podcaster who’s adulting “ah ha” moment came with having his son, Oscar. I told my son that I had a similar experience. It wasn’t until I was 32 that I left my job to follow my voice finally. I wanted to raise my children rather than have them in daycare.

My son chose to major in engineering in college because he thinks it will be a good job and provide a good salary. He didn’t know if his interest in game design would be as lucrative or as steady for a career choice. I wanted him to see that he can change his major five times if he wants to. He can come out of college unsure of what he wants to do next.

We also discussed that we don’t expect him to feel like an adult yet. It will take years of development, but this book is an excellent jumping-off point and provides a better understanding of what it means to be an adult.

Your Turn – How to be an Adult – Our Favorites

We loved the entire book, but the following sections encouraged the most discussion points. We’ve tagged pages with Post It stips so that my son can easily refer to them once he’s away at college.

Sweet 16 of Good Character

He’s a pretty sweet, easy-going kid, but like most teens, he gets stuck in his own world, not always paying attention to common courtesies like holding a door for someone. This list serves as a great reminder about easy ways to show good character and respect others. (p74)

Start Talking to Strangers

Talking to strangers has always been a challenge for him. He’s shy and very hesitant to advocate for himself. College will be a fantastic time for growth in building new connections and relationships. (Chapter 7)

Money Matters

My husband was adamant about NOT giving our kids an allowance. I didn’t agree, but we decided that trying their best at school was their “job” and household chores were a responsibility that came with living under our roof. So grades were rewarded with visits to the mall or purchasing video games. But that left him lacking in the money management part of life, so this chapter is especially helpful. (chapter 8)

12 Steps to Surviving When the Shit Hits the Fan

Regarding the shit hitting the fan, who doesn’t need this advice. It happens to all of us so having a little guidebook to refer to is incredibly helpful. I reminded him that shit happens to all of us. It may scare you, but you will get through it. (p.338)

Taking Good Care

I love how Lythcott-Haims puts it, “When it comes to adulting, there is perhaps nothing more core and personal than figuring out who and what you are, and how you best function, so you can keep functioning.” (276)

My son needs to be reminded to take care of himself. Sure, I’m a phone call away, but he needs to visit the college physician or psychologist if something feels wrong. I reminded him that depression runs in the family, so he needs to aware of how he’s feeling and turn to others if he’s overwhelmed. He also has some learning challenges, so he needs to ask for help, visit a tutor, etc. (chapter 9)

Unleash Your Superpowers

Last but certainly not least is the final chapter about the superpowers that we all have. Simply put, they are mindfulness, kindness, and gratitude.

I told my son a story of being at a business conference many years ago. In one exercise, we were asked what we wanted to be remembered for. Many of my colleagues spoke about work achievements. They wanted to become a VP or a CEO someday. I said that I wanted to be remembered for being kind. (chapter 12)

Read it Together

I highly recommend reading this book with your child. Lythcott-Haims includes a study guide at the end of the book providing excellent discussion ideas for each chapter.

I’ll be sending my “baby boy” off to college with a hard copy of the book. I want him to see it on his desk to be reminded of what he’s learned and reference our favorite sections when times get tough. I reminded him that it’s all a learning process, and my husband and I don’t expect him to have it all figured out anytime soon.

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Julie Lythcott-Haims is the New York Times bestselling author of How to Raise an Adult and Real American. She holds a BA from Stanford, a JD from Harvard Law School, and an MFA from California College of the Arts. She resides in the Bay Area with her partner, their two itinerant young adults, and her mother.

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