A few weeks back, I got to meet a heroine of mine – by zoom, naturally. Lisa Damour is a gifted author and speaker on the topic of parenting. Her books are tremendous – check out UnTangled and Under Pressure, which are specifically about raising girls; but don’t be fooled. Her wisdom is applicable to all kids – as evidenced by the popularity of her many columns in the New York Times’ WellFamily blog. In fact, if you haven’t ever read her work, start with these columns and you’ll be hooked.
We were preparing for a talk she gave to our Common Sense audience on May 20 ( Making Room for Uncomfortable Emotions) and I immediately developed a healthy crush on her breezy brilliance – Lisa possess a wonderful combination of Midwestern sensibility and academic punch; her resume is wildly impressive but her talent is in distilling all of psychology into a bit of advice you can use. I wanted to sit down with a cup of tea and soak up all her wisdom.
We happened on the topic of the Class of 2020, not our agenda item, but the headlines at the moment were full of inventive, alternative graduation ceremonies for this special class. We will all carry memories of the quarantine into the future, but being a senior in high school this year will always hold a certain distinction: the Class of 2020 has missed all their iconic milestones, including prom, final concerts, and athletic contests. Instead, they’re hunkering down in the family unit at a time when they thought they’d be occupied with ditch days and senior pranks – activities that are age- appropriate and MUCH more fun.
Lisa had been counseling high school kids in her hometown of Shaker Heights, OH and had a practical way to talk with them that I wanted to share it, because it contains such an essential parenting nugget… a recipe for how to talk to teens.
First, she acknowledges the facts with a straight up “you’re going to have a shitty year.” And, once that leveling gauntlet is thrown down, she follows with “but everyone is going to have it and we know from the history of psychology that you’re probably going to be just fine”…
First, she disarmed them with truth and then reassured them with facts. Kids want to be seen, they don’t want to be bullshitted to, and then they want a path forward. As a bonus, she bestowed upon them the unique status that for the rest of their lives, we’ll all remember who they are.
At Common Sense, we have been speaking with world class psychiatrists from around the country about how to cope at home during the quarantine. They were generous with their time and wisdom, and you can find all our conversations here on YouTube.