book review
This Book Will Help Parents Survive the Emotional Teenage Years

This Book Will Help Parents Survive the Emotional Teenage Years

If you have (or will soon have) teenagers in your house, The Emotional Lives of Teenagers: Raising Connected, Capable, and Compassionate Adolescents, by Lisa Damour, PhD. is an essential resource for your home library.

Those of us who have parented (or remember being) a teen know that teen emotions can be intense and often change rapidly. In an easy-to-understand manner, this book helps us understand what may be behind these emotions and what we can do to help them (and us) better survive these years.

“Somewhere along the way, we became afraid of being unhappy.”

“When teenagers understand what they are feeling and why, they suddenly have choices that were not available to them before.”

Having parented four children up to and through the teen years, I concur with the author’s assertion that the past 20 years has seen a culture shift when it comes to emotions: today we see less acceptance of uncomfortable feelings, such as sadness and anger. In fact, there seems to be an unwritten societal rule that these negative feelings should be prevented or banished.

Mental health has become a regular topic of conversation and the statistics demonstrate how important this is. Though, (if TV ads are any indication) it should come as no surprise that antidepressants are among the most prescribed medication today, their use has increased dramatically, from 37 percent in 1987 to 81 percent in 2015. During the same period, psychotherapy dropped 20 percent. Damour further connects the dots, pointing out that “wellness” has become its own industry. In fact, more money is now being spent on promoting sales of self-help books, products and services than on entertainment. This in and of itself may not be an issue, but the ads promoting these products suggest that stress and anxiety are preventable, which can make teens, in particular, feel they are “failing at wellness.”

This book provides a guide to help parents help their teens navigate their complex emotions. As Damour says, good mental health does not mean we always feel good. Instead it means that we have “appropriate feelings at appropriate times,” and those feelings are proportionate to the given circumstances.

How can parents help?

First we need to recognize and manage our own emotions. Then of course we need to remember that the teenage brain is different than ours, it is still developing. Skills in areas such as planning, decision-making, and perspective are among the last to develop. Teens are drawn to the allure of new and exciting experiences and social rewards. They are hard-wired to be impulsive, and their perception of danger in the “heat-of-the-moment” is often non-existent.

No matter how much they may want to, parents cannot prevent their children’s emotional pain. But they can help manage the discomfort that comes along with this pain. While there are instances when parents should be concerned (and seek professional help), Damour reassures us that “pronounced highs and lows” are perfectly normal at this stage. She also tells us that the goal is not to avoid conflict but to keep it constructive. This book will have you nodding your head at its descriptions of teenage behavior and sighing in relief at how easy some solutions can be. It is nothing short of a toolkit for helping parents help their teens.

Note: Though a digital copy was provided free of charge, no compensation was provided for this review. It is the honest opinion of the writer. KY


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