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I read quite a few parenting books through almost 12 years of parenting. Only a few made significant difference in my parenting, but I was desperately looking for a book that would give a good advice on how to guide Smarty on her journey to adulthood.
Untangled by Lisa Damour is such a book. I loved how she separated different issues that both girls and their parents are struggling with into different "strands of adolescence". Her advice is focused on "normal" girls and she got me at the statement that every girl secretly wonders whether she is crazy.
We certainly have our fair share of "crazy" moments as puberty train gains speed here. It's not just "drama" where every event appears to be so much more in terms of build up emotions and then let down emotions. It's also more anxiety where Smarty compares herself with others and sees her differences. There are more concerns about appearance, about friends, and even about boys. In other words, our little Smarty is... growing up.
Untangled does a good job "normalizing" experiences of adolescence. Before I read this book, I was trying to convince my husband to seek mental health help for Smarty, because I wasn't sure if some of her behaviors fall within a range of "normal", but now I feel a lot more confident that I can help her myself, at least for the time being. I was reassured that overall we are on the right track by giving Smarty a lot of freedom while still maintaining high expectations and boundaries. I talked to my husband about this book reading him some interesting passages, and we both try to find moments when Smarty is more likely to open up about her concerns. When she does, I don't try to minimize them (something I was somewhat guilty of in the past), but I show her that they are valid and she is not crazy thinking that way. In fact, occasionally I have distinct flashbacks into my own adolescence and my anguish about being "too fat" (I wasn't, but my figure was not proportional yet), not attractive enough, etc. I encourage Smarty to reason through possible solutions - for example, if she hates her freckles, she should wear sunscreen all the time and not once in a blue moon. I feel that these talks bring her some reassurance and she usually returns to her cheerful self after them.
I am not saying that this book replaces a mental health help even though its author is a certified clinician. Each chapter ends with When to Worry page which gives some excellent pointers on behaviors that are indeed outside of norm for teenagers. There are also sections when Lisa is imploring parents to call for help right away. It's good to be more aware of possible problems, and I can still see us potentially consulting with a psychologist who understand gifted mind at some point in the future. In the meantime, I highly recommend this book to every parent who is raising a girl.
What are you reading right now?