Book starts parent-teen conversations
By Deborah Moon
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As a high school senior, Vanessa Van Petten wrote a book designed to get parents and teenagers talking. Her 2007 graduation from Emory University coincided with the book’s publication. Now Van Petten is working with teens and parents around the country through seminars and lectures. She will be in Portland Oct. 8 and 9 to talk to parents one night and teens the next.
Starting with a chapter on how the physiological differences between the adolescent and adult brain create miscommunication, the book quickly moves on to practical advice—both for teens and their parents.
It was interesting to read that family meetings so highly touted in books by adults are not viewed as productive by most teens.
One piece of information I found useful was her statement on helping teens avoid burnout: “If you do not help your kids find a good balance between homework, going out and family time early in their teenage years, your kids will find it by experimenting themselves. This leads to rebellion.”
Some ideas are common sense. For instance, a teen will respond better to rules if you give them a reason. “‘Just because’ reasons for your decisions make teens resentful and angry.”
In her chapter on drugs and alcohol, Van Petten describes “the teenage drug culture EVERY teenager is in whether they do drugs or not.”
Van Petten recommends: “Do not be too authoritative when having the drug talk. … Have a discussion, not a lecture.”
I was intrigued by the teenage perspective on concrete tips for intergenerational communication, so I asked my teenage son to read the book too.
He thought the book had some good advice and that the section on the pressures today’s teens face was essential reading for parents. But some of the suggestions—such as ideas for positive reinforcement—reminded him too much of the way he works with preschoolers. And he said the suggestion to find activities of common interests for teens and parents to share, seemed pointless. He said even if an activity was appealing to both, teens aren’t likely to want to do it with their parents.
I guess the book succeeded—We’re talking.
“You’re Grounded! How to stop fighting and make the teenage years easier. A teenage perspective,” by Vanessa Van Petten, 2007, iUniverse, Lincoln, Neb., $13.95, 119 pages.