I read this book to check in to see how we were doing as a family trying to navigate life with a teenage girl. Overall, I feel like we should get a pat on the back, since a lot of the recommendations are already a part of our family dynamics. It was also comforting to know that the roller coaster we have been on since our daughter turned 13 is a normal part of transitioning into adulthood. Here are some of my thoughts on the book. Please chime in with your thoughts.
First, I would definitely recommend this book to all parents of adolescent girls. Dr. Damour normalizes a lot of the behaviors we have been dealing with during the teenage years. She also gives great conversation starters to use with your girls, and ends each chapter with a “when to be worried” section.
I love the swimming pool metaphor she uses for your role with your daughter. The water is the world she is learning to navigate. Your daughter is the swimmer, and you are the edge of the pool. Sometimes she will push away from the edge, but then she will also come back to the edge when she needs support. That constant push and pull can be exhausting, but the take away is to always be there as the supportive edge.
She also talks about parents and their own relationships as girls enter the teen years. If parents do not have a healthy relationship with their spouse/partner, they can become too dependent on their daughter and try to prevent her from growing up. This was the scenario at my house when I was a teen. My mom did not want me to separate from her, and so when I pulled away to be closer to my peers, she shut down and was not available for me. I so wish she had this book as a reference to know that what I was doing was a normal developmental step, and that I did still need her to be there for me.
I was shocked at the research reported about early teens (ages 13-16) and risky behavior. One study reported that teens are twice as risky when with peers vs when alone. The scariest part of this reporting is that our early teens are with each other more often than not.
The need for a safety plan prompted lots of social media discussions among my fellow mom friends. Dr. Damour encourages parents to have a no questions asked plan for teens to get home if in an unsafe situation. We settled on getting a Family Uber plan so that both teens always have a safe way to get home. I also got each teen their own house key and Mace spray. Better safe than sorry, right?
There is an entire chapter on how parents become the emotional dumping ground, and that by complaining to me means my daughter is able to bring her best self to school. Dr. Damour says to just listen when your teen complains vs trying to solve the problem (I am so guilty of this… I am a fixer and want to fix all problems, especially those my daughter is experiencing). I love the language she offers in these situations – “do you just want to vent or do you need my help?” Think of it like the toddler phase of development. Don’t tell her what to do, instead offer choices.
One of my favorite chapters is the one on owning your “Crazy Spots” as a parent. Those faults we all have that make us who we are. If your daughter knows your faults, she can recognize that none of us are perfect. In our family, I am the one who cannot take a joke, Literally, I can dish it out but cannot take it. The husband is a hot head and will blow up over something small, then apologize later.
Dating is of course a chapter, but I feel like we have covered that topic in this blog post.
The take aways are to keep the lines of communication open, let your daughter learn from her mistakes when possible, and know that most of her behavior is completely normal.