Relationship Skills 101 For Teens by Sheri Van Dijk

I have a young teen and hoped to give her the tools she needs to be prepared for the stresses of high school. I gave her the book to read and upon completion, her response was that she didn’t get anything out of it. So I read it as well and have to agree – I wasn’t getting anything out of it either.

RelationshipSkills101forTeensMECH.indd

So what happened? In discussing with my daughter, we found some key issues:

–  Although it is supposed to be written for teens, it is very dry, ponderous, and even at times condescending. I was reminded of examples when scientists or psychologists think they are communicating with laymen but really they end up sounding pedantic, patronizing, or plain old boring. While the book doesn’t talk down to teens, it doesn’t talk TO them either.

–  The book is all over the place. Examples of kids who bully are next to those with anxiety problems or extreme shyness. I became confused often while reading – a problem my daughter shared as well.

–  Although different situations are given, it all equates to a one-size-fits-all type of solution – mindfulness (DBT). Which is all well and good, but for kids who live in the ‘now’ anyway (and whose brains’ abilities to think of future consequences are temporarily disabled during the teen years), I don’t know how much more ‘in the now’ they can get.

–  CBT (cognitive behavior therapy) is the big thing right now – for everything from controlling obesity to stopping smoking. I can’t think of a more difficult subject than a teen – and their crazy hormones, to get to do CBT exercises (e.g., start at the toes and think of the muscles there and then move up the legs and body and think of every muscle). I think my daughter would get as far as an ankle before she’d already be wondering when she can go get on the trampoline. Older teens might find the book easier – but then by late teens they are pretty set in their behaviors, as well. The book definitely isn’t for younger teens since there’s nothing inviting about the writing.

When reading this, I couldn’t help but feel this was meant for teens with more serious behavioral problems – drugs, alcohol, bad relationships, etc. So perhaps my young teen, who hasn’t hit high school, was too young for the book. It feels like a catch-22 – the younger ones need the skills early but the book will go over their head; the older ones can digest the book better but by then it’s probably too late.

I think that with a different approach, the book would work better. Written by someone who sounds like they actually work with kids at ground zero in junior and high schools rather than a clinician in an office or research lab type of feel. In any event, neither my teen nor I got much out of this, sadly. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.

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