Friday, February 14, 2020

Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood - Lisa Damour, Ph.D.

Title: Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood
Author: Lisa Damour, Ph.D.
Publisher: Ballantine Books, 2017 (Paperback)
Length: 368 pages
Genre: Nonfiction, Parenting
Started: February 11, 2020
Finished: February 13 2020


In this sane, highly engaging, and informed guide for parents of daughters, Dr. Damour draws on decades of experience and the latest to reveal the seven distinct - and absolutely normal - developmental transitions that turn girls into grownups, including Parting with Childhood, Contending with adult Authority, Entering the Romantic World, and Caring for Herself. Providing realistic scenarios and welcome advice on how to engage daughters in smart, constructive ways, Untangled gives parents a broad framework for understanding their daughters while addressing their most common questions, including:

  • My thirteen-year-old rolls her eyes when I try to talk to her, and only does it more when I get angry at her. How should I respond?
  • Do I tell my daughter that I'm checking her phone?
  • My daughter suffers from test anxiety. What can I do to help her?
  • Where's the line between healthy eating and having an eating disorder?
  • My teenage daughter wants to know why I'm against pot when it's legal in some states. What should I say?
  • My daughter's friend is cutting herself. Do I call the girl's mother to let her know?

Perhaps most important, Untangled helps mothers and fathers understand, connect, and grow with their daughters. When parents know what makes their daughters tick, they can embrace and enjoy the challenge of raising a healthy, happy young woman. 

I've been meaning to read this book for quite a while. Not only do I work with teenage girls every day to the point where it feels like an extension of parenting duties, but I've also got my girls at home. This book has come recommended in a long line of parenting books specifically targeted to the unique needs and concerns of raising girls. The author states that many of the developmental transitions she discusses in her book do apply to both boys and girls, but some of the details differ regarding girls. 

Overall, this is a great general, yet comprehensive guide that covers information that will apply to most girls. Obviously if you're dealing with a child that's experiencing trauma, abuse, mental illness, etc. then this information likely won't address all your concerns, but it's a great place to start. 

One thing I love about books like these are real-life examples and anecdotes that the author has encountered in her practice that puts information in an easily accessible format. The book itself is very easy to read and it could easily be finished in a few sittings or less. 

The developmental transitions the author mentions are the following:
  • Parting with Childhood
  • Joining a New Tribe
  • Harnessing Emotions
  • Contending with Adult Authority
  • Planning for the Future
  • Entering the Romantic World
  • Caring for Herself
Parting with Childhood explains why girls all of a sudden act like they're allergic to their families and abandon many of the things they associate with childhood, while still struggling with maturity and can sometimes seem like they're flip-flopping between child and adult ('cause they are). Joining a New Tribe explains why girls attach themselves so strongly to their friends as opposed to their families, and the difficulties this can cause.

Harnessing Emotions was a really eye-opening chapter in that it explains that emotional growth occurs only when people are uncomfortable, so if a girl doesn't have the opportunity to experience uncomfortable emotions she won't be able to grow in this area. For example, if a parent swoops in to solve her problems so she never develops those coping skills, or if she relies on technology to vent and potentially worsen the situation rather than being able to cool down and see the potential consequences of that text message or that social media post. Contending with Adult Authority is about girls becoming savvy enough to see that people are complex and often hypocritical, so rules need to make sense and be about safety first and foremost rather than about controlling their behaviour, because they'll buck that just to prove they can't be controlled...almost like toddlers. It also explains that if authority figures are too lax girls feel insecure, so they actually want rules and boundaries even if they buck them constantly.

Planning for the Future deals with having goals and ensuring success in school, since girls need one to achieve the other and sometimes need help seeing how one directly influences the other. Entering the Romantic World is about dating and sex and the concerns that come with that relating to keeping girls safe while still allowing them some freedom. Finally, Caring for Herself is about drugs, alcohol, and risky sexual behaviours and again about keeping girls safe when they get too over their head.

Great informative read if you have teenage girls of your own or work with them on a consistent basis. It explains a lot of the things teenagers do that adults often find frustrating that actually end up being quite normal.

Thoughts on the cover:
It's your average parenting book cover.

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