Book review of The Angst of Adolescence: How to Parent Your Teen (and live to laugh about it)

Book review of The Angst of Adolescence: How to Parent Your Teen (and live to laugh about it)

In the introduction to her her book The Angst of Adolescence: How to Parent Your Teen (and live to laugh about it), Sara Villanueva, PhD, says her goal is "to relate to other parents of teens and shed some light on issues we all struggle with." She successfully accomplishes that goal in this rather short, easily digestible book that is packed with a great combination of information based on her varying experiences with teenagers.

"Please note that, although I am a developmental psychologist by training and have extensive experience in researching, teaching, and writing about adolescent development and parenting, much of the writing in this book comes from my perspective as a parent," she writes.

I really enjoyed the fact that as I read, I felt like she's really been there, and she's still there. She gets what it is to parent this tricky, fascinating age group, and perhaps most importantly, she gets that a sense of humor is hugely important.

Villanueva uses a reassuring tone that she backs up with both research and her own experiences as a mother of four. She seems to really get what parents of adolescents are feeling, because she's had those same feelings herself as a parent.

For example, on the topic of kids now spending more time with friends and less time with parents, she says, "This shift in social needs is not an indication that your child no longer loves you or the family (despite clear evidence to the contrary), because teens really do love and appreciate their parents in their own way. But spending time with friends, doing whatever it is that goes on in that underground, Illuminati-type society that adults are not privy to, is what they need to do right now."

Her sense of humor charmed me throughout the book, but I appreciate that it didn't detract from the substance, she still takes the feelings of parents seriously. It's a tough balance, and she struck it quite nicely.

I appreciated that she acknowledges the stress and the fear that many parents experience when they feel in constant conflict with their kids and doesn't try to downplay those intense emotions so many parents feel while also offering hope.

"The . . . good news is that the conflict that parents and teens experience is generally not indicative of major problems for either the individuals or the family," writes Villanueva.

If you just relaxed a bit after reading that sentence, know that you're not alone. She writes that there's often a collective exhale when she tells groups of parents that.

That doesn't mean that you need to know what to do all the time. She straight up tells parents, "Often, you may have no idea what to do in a given situation involving your teen, and that's okay."

The Angst of Adolescence gently yet repeatedly encourages parents to consider various perspectives, particularly that of the adolescent, and reminds us that while many things have changed, a lot about being a teenager is substantially the same as it was a few decades ago when we were teens. If we try hard enough to see the view from their position, we'll probably remember that we felt similarly at one time.

Later in the book, she advocates for parents to practice self-care and compassion towards ourselves, which is not only good advice, it's important and beneficial to all  family members. We parent so much better when our tanks are not on empty, no matter what age our kids happen to be.

Self-care is essential because "parenting is not for cowards," as Villanueva's mom says. Truth.

Overall, Villanueva tells the reader that the kids (and us, their parents) are all right.

"The fact is that the vast majority of people with teenagers get through this crazy developmental period jut fine, with no severe or long-term detrimental effects to the family or to the relationship.  The relationship between parents and child not only remains intact, but, more importantly, it gets even better!"

It may be worth getting the book just so you can refer back to that page as often as needed.

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