Real Help Parenting Your Teen


I can remember a mom of older kids murmuring “little kids, little problems – big kids, big problems” to me when I was trying to sort out potty training issues. Now that my kids are teenagers, their problems do seem bigger — if only because what we say and do in the moment is so critical.  All the more reason to do your homework and be ready when your kids need you to say the right thing.

Here are some updates from what I’ve learned, lately (and ways for you to keep learning more!).

Interesting Research Articles: Recent brain research about the teenage brain is confounding – we’re told by scientists (notably in last October’s National Geographic) that our darlings’ brains are still developing and reorganizing, which explains why they engage in such erratic and (sometimes) risky behavior.

“I’m just scared to death that my up-until-now-reasonable son, who just got his license, will get the crazy idea to see how fast our car will go on the freeway… just so he can brag about it at school.”

At the same time, an article in last week’s New York Times reports that this generation of teens is actually much better behaved than kids have ever been. They’re smoking, drinking and having sex less frequently then previous generations. Hooray!!  Except that reading Lori Gottleib’s thoroughly researched article from last fall’s The Atlantic Magazine, called “How to Land Your Kids in Therapy,” had me more confused. Gottleib discusses a recent phenomenon witnessed by therapists of perfectly produced, seemingly well-adjusted kids who are entering therapy later in life with rampant self-esteem issues.  We’re helicoptering around our kids, creating delicate narcissists who are going to have perfect resumes, but will wind up feeling empty inside.

Lucky, there are some worthy lecture series around town that can help allay your fears and answer your questions:

1. The Skirball Center’s Parenting Seminar: Teenagers- Wonder Years or Worry Years? is an all day seminar on Sunday, March 4 (from 1:00 – 4:00 PM) with brain research expert Dr. John M. Watkins, who has specialized in clinical psychology and neuropsychology, and a panel of teens that can help work through whatever issues might be plaguing your household. Bring your questions and open your mind in the company of sympathetic parents and experts. Click here for ticketing information.

2. TEAM TUTORS Free Parenting Seminars:  I sat in on one of Team Tutors’ free parenting seminars last week, Self-Esteem, Resilience and Creating an Independent Child by a local psychotherapist Samara Fabrick, LCSW. Fabrick’s message, delivered with amusing anecdotes, is that self-esteem comes from the knowledge that “you can do it.”  From an early age, we rush in to keep our children from feeling bad or uncomfortable. But, in fact, learning to experience and survive unpleasant and difficult moments will teach kids the resiliency they’ll need in the work-place and in adult relationships. Recent research shows that childrens’ ability to recover from a difficult situation is a good indicator of whether or not they’ll be happy and successful as adults.

The next seminar promises to be equally interesting. Jaana Juvonen, a nationally-recognized expert on bullying, speaks on March 20 at 7:00 PM. The program is called Peer Harassment in Schools and Cyber-Bullying; Reservations are strongly advised as this will be a very popular evening program (write to I can’t recommend Team Tutor‘s seminars enough. About 45 parents gather in a private home in Beverly Hills to listen to established, trusted therapists and educators for a brief hour and a half. It’s free!

Reading List: Here are some key books for you to read on these topics…. (purchasing them through us supports TFS!).  The bible is really Wendy Mogul’s The Blessing of a Skinned Knee (Wendy is a highly respected, LA based Ph.D).

I also got a lot out of Nurtureshock: New Thinking about Children by Po Bronson.

What Works for Me: When I’m in a panic about what to say to my 16 year-old son, I try to remember what my priorities were when I was his age.  All that mattered to me was my friends, the complex web of peer relations at school and who-crushed-on-who. When you realize how much of your teen’s emotional energy is spent on socializing and peer- positioning, it’s amazing that any schoolwork gets done, at all…. When I put myself in that place, I feel more sympathetic towards his issues and our conversation runs a little more smoothly.


Photo by Drew Bracken