When my daughter turned 13, I practically got sympathy cards from my friends. Everyone seemed to think that I was in for six years of roller-coaster emotions—and mostly negative ones at that. “They get nice again about 20,” an experienced friend said. My daughter is 14 and a half now, and I have to say, so far so good. We've had our share of disagreements, but it's not been horrible. In fact, most of the time, she’s delightful. I like spending time with her and it's mutual. (And I did just double-check this with her.)
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Arden Greenspan-Goldberg, a family and marriage psychotherapist, agrees. The teen years don't have to be terrible. Her book offers a lot of practical suggestions for moms and teens in the thick of adolescence. What Do You Expect? She's a Teenager! offers help and hope to those of us with tween or teenaged daughters, eye-rolling and “whatevers” aside.
Arden advocates what she terms “aerial parenting,” pulling back from the heat of emotional battles and looking at the big picture. This helps you anticipate and prepare, and gives a more objective view of the situation. It's true—I've noticed when I can be more objective, I'm less likely to lash out and wound those around me with my own frustrations.
Teenagers will make mistakes and that's OK, Arden cautions. She advocates responding to their needs and desires, rather than reacting. This is done through preparation on the mother’s part. In other words, think through how you'll respond to a request for birth control ahead of time so that you can respond calmly when your daughter brings it up. If you're cognizant that teens will make mistakes, you'll be more composed when it becomes apparent that she has a hangover after a late-night party and will be able to discuss the issues calmly. This gives parents the opportunity to tactfully and kindly use their own hard-gained wisdom to guide their daughters through the pitfalls of learning to make wise choices.
What Do You Expect? is organized into chapters dealing with different issues, including topics such as social media, dating, sex, family dynamics, bullying and mental disorders. Each chapter opens with an overview and then includes letters from mothers who've written in to ask advice for particular situations, followed by Arden's response. One aspect I particularly appreciated is Arden's habit of offering “conversation prompts”—or sample ways for you to broach a particular subject with your daughter. I'll be modifying a few to fit my own life.
Arden encourages mothers to find the balance between too nice and too strict. She urges mothers to make their daughters part of the solution, guiding and teaching them to come up with appropriate ways to handle particular situations—timing is everything when it comes to talking about certain issues. The book even closes with a list of resources for those wanting more information or needing more guidance in particular areas.
I found myself wanting to be more patient with my daughter after reading this book. Arden reminds parents of how it feels to be on the other side, to be the one suffering through adolescence—honestly, I'm happy that I never have to relive junior high and high school again. The author’s practical advice and her sensible approach to mediating conflict make What Do You Expect a great addition to any mother's library.
Elizabeth D. Jones has loved reading for just about as long as she's had a cognitive memory, and she loves working with the 5 Minutes for Books team. She is an ESL teacher who has lived and worked around the world with her husband and three kids. She blogs about adjusting back to life in the U.S. at Planet Nomad.