The Author and Psychologist Lisa Damour
The Impact on Parents
The author and psychologist Lisa Damour has become somewhat of a celebrity among many parents of teenagers. Rebecca Gold, a mother of three from Great Barrington, Mass, said, “I’ve been Damour-alizing myself big time for about a month now.” She loves Damour so much that she even created a verb in her honor. Gold has been consuming Dr. Damour’s books, listening to her podcast, and trying to channel her advice.
Katie Eastwood, a parent from Seattle, also raved about Dr. Damour’s book “Untangled,” a guide to a girl’s seven developmental transitions. Eastwood said the book has saved her multiple times.
About Lisa Damour
Dr. Lisa Damour has counseled teenagers and their families for over 25 years. Her expertise is backed by scientific research, and her practical advice has gained her popularity. Her books, “Untangled” and “Under Pressure,” became New York Times best sellers. Her most recent book, “The Emotional Lives of Teenagers,” has also gained significant traction.
As a mother of two daughters, Dr. Damour understands firsthand the challenges and fears of parenting. She acknowledges the increasingly poor mental health of children, especially teenage girls, in recent years. However, her work carries a reassuring message – that parents are capable of supporting their teenagers effectively.
Supporting Teenagers Psychologically and Emotionally
We asked Dr. Damour for advice on supporting teenagers psychologically and emotionally during the new school year. Here are her insightful answers:
1. Pay Attention to Warning Signs
Parents should watch out for low or angry moods that persist for more than a day or two. Additionally, they should be wary of teenagers using harmful coping strategies, such as substance abuse or unhealthy technology use. If a teenager expresses feelings of hopelessness or self-harm, parents need to be alert.
2. Encouraging Communication with Teenagers
Teenagers often want to assert their independence and do things on their own terms. However, they still require connections and support from loving adults. While teenagers may not always feel like talking, parents need to be receptive and create opportunities for conversation. It’s important not to take it personally when teenagers are not in the mood to answer questions.
3. Different Forms of Emotional Expression
Verbalizing feelings may not be the preferred option for every teenager. Each individual has their unique coping strategies. It’s crucial to understand and respect that some teenagers express their emotions through activities such as exercise or listening to music. The priority is that they find healthy ways to relieve their feelings without causing harm.
4. Handling Rule Resistance
When a teenager claims they’re an adult and don’t have to follow household rules, parents should respond warmly. They can acknowledge that independence will come when the teenager is living independently. However, it’s essential to emphasize that as long as they live in the household, they must respect the rules set in place. Rules should revolve around respectful treatment and safety, with negotiable aspects falling outside these categories.
5. Addressing School-Related Fears and Anxieties
Avoidance of fears and anxieties can perpetuate them. It’s crucial not to allow teenagers to stay home or skip events simply to alleviate discomfort. Engaging with feared situations, even partially, helps teenagers test their fears against reality. Missing school can have negative academic and social consequences. The decision should be based on whether the situation is uncomfortable or unmanageable. In most cases, with the help of anxiety-reducing strategies, teenagers can participate despite their fears.
6. Alleviating Academic Pressure
Parents and caregivers must distinguish between healthy and unhealthy anxiety. Healthy anxiety serves as a safety system, alerting individuals to genuine threats. Unhealthy anxiety occurs without an actual threat or when fear is disproportionate. If a teenager worries about their academic performance, caring adults can discuss the possible overestimation of consequences and underestimate their ability to address concerns. The goal is not to eliminate anxiety entirely but to ensure it remains within a healthy range.
7. Managing a Demanding Schedule
It’s important to consider whether a teenager has sufficient time to recover from periods of stress. Similar to strength training, rest is necessary to avoid injury. If a demanding schedule prevents adequate sleep and socializing with friends, parents should reevaluate and ensure balance is achieved.
8. Dealing with Social Distress
When a friend becomes mean or a teenager is excluded from a friend group, parents should empathize with the pain and mistreatment. It’s crucial to teach healthy conflict management, encourage direct and fair communication, and distance oneself politely if necessary. Adolescence often involves shifting and changing friendships, and it’s important to reassure teenagers that not all friendships are meant to last forever.
9. Balancing Parental Support
Parents can find a middle ground between being helicopter parents and completely hands-off. They can take on the role of a coach, guiding and supporting their teenagers.