Posted by: counselorcarmella | October 12, 2011

Review of Seven Things Your Teen Won’t Tell You And How To Talk About Them Anyway

I just finished reading “7 THINGS YOUR TEENAGER WON’T TELL YOU: And How to Talk About Them Anyway,” by Robin M. Deutsch and Jenifer Marshall Lippincott. It is published by Ballantine Books, copyright 2005.  Jennifer has experience as a teacher, dean, and learning consultant and Robin is a psychologist.  They both have experience with adolescents as parents and as professionals.
This was an easy-to-read book with lots of examples and little scripts  of  conversations to illustrate what the authors are explaining.  I found it quite practical. The premise is that there should be three basic “rules of play” when dealing with teens. 
1.  Stay safe (This  involves concerns about high risk behaviors)
2. Be respectful (of family, self, others, and property)
3. Keep in touch. (Location and communication).
They encourage parents to  seek information and understanding  when teens  present  things they want to do or try and assert their independence.  They caution parents to not  automatically say “No” out of fear of what might happen.  Conversation can be used to help teens  use the critical thinking  and decision making skills they are developing. They  say  consequences, when necessary, should relate to  reinforcing the three guiding principles rather than just being about “punishment” or reestablishing authority.   They also stress creativity, humor, and that its okay to think about a situation before giving an answer, whether it is  permission to do something or  a consequence.
They talk about knowing when to  try and have more influence or provide more guidance, and when to let  teens figure things  out, based on the  rules of play. Teens have to make some mistakes to learn  life lessons and the adults job is to  try and  help them avoid mistakes that may have more life-altering consequences. The “staying in touch”  rule and skillful, sensitive communication make this possible. They talk about  communication strategies  that will put up red flags to make teens think instead of road blocks they’ll just get creative to work around.  They stress the importance of being curious, rather than  judgmental and of not jumping to conclusions.
The authors do a lot to explain adolescent thinking and ways of responding, typical  challenges, and  even the  brain-related changes that contribute to why teens act the way they do.  This part was particularly good, I thought, as it was simple to understand and  practical. Basically,  the teenaged brain has the  limbic system (pleasure seeking part of the brain)  in competition with the developing prefrontal cortex, which is where judgment and  decision-making takes place.  The limbic system  is often stronger and the  PFC is just beginning to strengthen and mature. Neural connections are developing and strengthening, and  parts of the brain that aren’t used atrophy and die off.  So, the more teens are engaged in activities that actively involve their minds, the better. The parts of the brain that are used grow stronger and are “Myalinated.” This means the myalen  wraps around  and insulates them so  they are stronger and less vulnerable to damage.  I think this is how it works anyway.  
The authors stress that parents  shouldn’t assume that their child “would never” do certain things.  Many teens, even those from “good” homes” experiment with  alcohol, smoking, drugs, and sexual behaviors. Most teens lie to their parents, either outright, by minimizing, or by  simply not saying.  Parents need to be aware of what is “typical” for  today’s teens in terms of  what they watch, listen to, and  gain access to online.  Knowing what’s going on is extremely important in general and helps parents to know how to respond to their own teens. Parents should not be afraid to bring up topics such as sex, drugs, drinking,  etc., because teens are  already openly talking about these things amongst themselves in ways that  parents  might never have when they were teenagers.
Parents are encouraged to  be aware of signs of a problem that goes beyond normal adolescent moodiness or “drama.”  Depression is discussed openly, including statistics, warning signs, and ways to respond. The authors stress that, at the end of the day, no one knows a child better than his/her parent and no one is more invested in keeping that child healthy  and safe more than his/her parent.   
The authors  note how technology is changing things. They talk about  how most teens have their own cell phones.  Gone are the days where  a teenager has to actually call “the house” and possibly  risk  having to speak to a parent when trying to get in touch with another teen.  Bullying has now taken on new  complexities due to cyberbullying, and kids can simply download music rather than their parents having to take them to the store to buy a  CD that may have a “Parental Advisory” sticker on it.  Teens can access pornography,  information about  weapons, and all sorts of other questionable material, including  sites that promote self injury and  eating disorder behaviors, on the Internet.
The authors suggest  that parents open their homes to the  teens their child spends time with and to make their home a place teens will want to spend time at. This helps parents to know what rules are in place and to get to know their child’s friends. They emphasize the importance of being “around”  and “available” to  their kids if/when  teens want to talk.  These talks are still between parent and child, not between buddies, however, as parents should not take on the role of being their child’s friend. That’s what peers are for. The authors  discuss some myths about peer  influence and teen decision making.  They encourage parents to remember that they still play a vital role in their teen’s life, even when friends seem most important.  They assert that teens still care about what their parents think, perhaps often more than parents realize. It is important for parents to clearly but calmly communicate their values on an ongoing basis.

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