We are living at a time when information is so readily available on any topic, that you would not be alone in asking why anyone would put another book out there, especially on subjects that are about complex human processes such as parenting and teenagers. I asked myself this question when I began a new writing project a year or two ago, which has resulted in the publication of a second edition of my book ‘The Psychology of Parenting Teenagers’ (Icon Books.com) due to be published in January 2021. This post is about some of the reasons why I did, which also happen to be core ideas that run throughout the book.
I cared about the subject because I was a parent of four teenage children for fourteen years and although this time was wonderful in many ways it was also a time that challenged and stretched me more than any other time as a parent. I often doubted in my capacities to help and guide them safely into adulthood and on top of this there was the conundrum that I spent my ‘working for money time’ as a professional psychologist trying to help teenagers, parents, carers, teachers and other professionals working with young people. By and large helping other parents of teenagers was much less challenging than what I had to manage at home and the main reason for this, I believe, was the fact that there was so much less of my own emotion involved. Parenting is an emotional business and one of the features of effective parents, in my clinical and personal experience and in some of the literature, is a capacity to be in tune with and to manage emotions.
One of my favourite quotes about teenagers is by a Roman Catholic nun and educator, Janet Erskine Stuart (1857-1914), “In no order of things is adolescence a simple time of life”. It is ironic that I should be quoting someone who was never tested by parenting her own young but then again we live in a time when many people have things to say and are credited as being in a position to offer what they say but do not necessarily do and this brings me to another core idea. Parents need to be congruent in terms of their behaviour and this includes verbal behaviour, i.e. what they say. Their teenage children, going through the intense period of self-preoccupation that teenagers always do will always find a parent out if there is any kind of a mismatch between words and deeds.
One of the many problems, and opportunities, you face as a parent of teenagers is that no matter how in tune you are with your own young person, you are always a step or more behind what is happening in the world in which they are growing up. Open-mindedness, creativity, acceptance, realism, courage and a capacity to engage in endless solution-finding and learning are core requirements. I thought it was important to put this down in writing because most texts written by ‘experts’ in the field tend to offer ‘off-the-peg’ answers and suggestions for most or average teenagers and their parents. The empirical studies, upon which their suggestions are based, useful as they are in general terms, cannot, by definition, accommodate the unique, countless individual differences.
Some readers who turn to my book for hard facts and concrete answers about teenagers, their development and the most effective parenting, may be disappointed. In the spirit of maintaining some congruence between my own words and behaviour I admit I cannot offer such absolutes. However, I can offer some honest, fresh, realistically optimistic and creative ideas. If anyone reading this post would like to read and review my book I am offering the first twelve people who get in touch a free copy.