Teenage girls get a pretty bad rap.
According to pop culture depictions, they act like unstable jungle animal-human hybrids – sweet one moment and clawing cattily at their former best friends the next.
In all fairness, the constant push-and-pull between craving independence and clinging to childhood doesn’t exactly bring out the best in anyone. Throw in some hormones, changing friend groups, higher expectations at school, and a world that simultaneously punishes and prizes you for your physical appearance…it’s no wonder parents start to brace themselves at the first double-digit birthday.
So, we need people who really know girls – who advocate for them, who study the ways they feel and think and behave, who can teach us where to draw the line between normal and worrisome, who can help parents understand the ups and downs they can anticipate along the developmental rollercoaster.
Dr. Lisa Damour knows girls.
A Cleveland psychologist, Dr. Damour also directs the highly respected Center for Research on Girls at Laurel School, where she and her colleagues study how girls learn best. Her work studying stereotype threat has helped to better prepare girls for the success they are capable of, and the Center’s research on sleep and stress encourages schools to prioritize self-care. Damour is also a columnist for the New York Times’ Motherlode blog, where she most recently reminded us that, despite their reputations, “girls aren’t actually meaner than boys.” She has spent her career working tirelessly to understand how best to support girls as they develop, from the importance of resilience to the need for female mentorship in STEM fields.
So, when I heard about Dr. Damour’s newest book, Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through The Seven Transitions Into Adulthood, I began counting down the days to its release this month.
Damour draws on her vast experience to prepare parents for what lies ahead, all while remaining a fierce champion for the growing girl, who, she reminds us, has a lot on her plate. We know the pressures adolescent girls face are plentiful, and Untangled teaches us that there’s much, much more to the snarky 15-year-old than meets the eye. Though we know your daughter’s unpredictable behavior is a challenge, she isn’t just trying to drive you insane; Damour reminds us that there are important developmental forces at play.
As if parents didn’t already have enough to think about, adolescence brings with it a whole host of concerns for adults who care for girls. We know we’re supposed to pay attention to how much girls are eating, who they’re spending time with, and whether or not their behavior might indicate something’s not quite right. There’s so much to worry over – an endless rabbit hole of fears like whether or not she’s spending too much time with a certain peer group, growing apart from a childhood best friend, neglecting to spend time with family. One fear leads to another, of course, because once you’re thinking about who she hangs out with you’re not sure if you’re supposed to ask where they go, and then you wonder what an appropriate time for curfew might be and how best to enforce it. Then, there’s all the “talks” – about alcohol and drugs and sex and time management and dealing with disappointment.
There are so many worries, and Damour covers them all, even naming seven developmental touchstones you and your daughter will experience. By naming these milestone moments, Damour demystifies the journey from girlhood to adulthood. Untangled teaches you, too, what separates an okay behavior from a red flag, and how best to proceed if you’re really worried about your daughter.
Parenting a girl is complicated business – and there’s no need to go it alone. Add Untangled to your bookshelf and you’ll be lucky enough to add Dr. Damour’s wisdom to your arsenal. You, and your daughter, will be glad you did.