Untangled by Lisa Damour

Untangled is a grounded and logical approach to the very emotional years of teen transition. Intended for parents, it has a dual focus: helping parents understanding the separation issues of this transition period as well as providing guidance for the issues girls will now face. This differs from many books out there in that it is very calm, soothing and stressing non judgmental interactions. A lot of it read like an answer book to interpreting what a girl is really saying/doing so parents can react/act appropriately.

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The book breaks down as follows: One: Parting with Childhood; Two: Joining a New Tribe; Three: Harnessing Emotions; Four: Contending with Adult Authority; Five: Planning for the Future; Six: Entering the Romantic World; Seven: Caring For Herself. Topics under the above categories include: Allergic to questions, Smoke without fire, The pull of popular, Tribal warfare, Befriending distress, Coping by posting, The end of ‘because I said so”; Holding the line, Planning for the new week, Dealing with disappointment, Offering some perspective on the romantic world, Being gay, Girls, food weight, Getting real about drinking, Eating disorders.

The seven sections provide both a teen girl’s and then the parents perspective. At the end of the chapter, discussions of how to deal with more serious issues are also discussed. Unlike many currently published books on the subject, there isn’t a lot about helicopter parenting or the changing dynamics of parenting in this age. The approach is very neutral (and admittedly clinical) with constant reminders to not be judgemental – of your child, your own parenting, or other children/parents. Which isn’t to say that the book is ineffectual – just that there is no blame game going on here. So there is a universality and timelessness to the approach.

Where perhaps the book fell flat for me were the provided sterile and inorganic answers parents can give to their teens. They were overly wordy and framed in a way that perhaps a psychologist in a psychotherapy session could get away with – but that a child would instantly recognize as coming from somewhere else than the parent. Certainly, I read a couple of the supplied responses to my 12 year old and she stared at me mystified – then gave me a 4-5 word answer that did sound honest.

Those looking for a gentle way to interact with their teen girl will find quite a bit here. Especially with understanding a teen girl and what she is really saying – rather than reacting with hurt or anger. It’s about the transition from child to adult and the steps a girl will take over the teen years in order to achieve her independence.

I did find quite a bit useful; and with the exception of the clinical verbiage given to parents to respond with in difficult situations, it is the perfect book to ‘keep calm and carry on’ through the teen years. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.

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