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Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood

By Lisa Damour
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  • Contains 9 key ideas
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Untangled by Lisa Damour

Untangled (2016) is a guide for mothers and fathers, for teachers and mentors – anyone who might be trying to better understand the life and struggles of teenage girls. It offers invaluable advice on how to recognize what they’re going through so you can avoid some common pitfalls and not make the situation worse.

Key idea 1 of 9

It’s natural for teens to become more private and temperamental.

It happens to the parents of all daughters. After years of happily spending time with them, their daughter suddenly seems to disappear into herself and her room, avoiding conversation and contact.

This change in behavior can set off parental alarm bells, but there’s really no need to panic; it’s merely the first of the seven natural stages that every girl goes through when transitioning from childhood to womanhood.

This first stage usually occurs around age eleven, and it’s characterized by the desire for privacy and isolation.

But keep in mind that this isolation is both a conscious and unconscious act. While your teen is consciously seeking time alone, she’s also unconsciously preparing herself for the independence of adulthood.

Transitioning into adulthood is sort of like learning to ride a bike: isolation at home is the training wheels, the learning period that precedes adult independence. So, rather than worrying, be glad that she is going through all of this in a safe environment.

Now, it’s not uncommon for this behavior to be accompanied by temperamental outbursts. Daughters often say mean or cruel things to their parents – especially their mother. And these remarks will often be aimed at vulnerable areas, such as physical appearance or sartorial shortcomings.

The best way to deal with this is to tell your teen that her comments hurt your feelings, and to let her know that she should be more mindful about what she says.

But your daughter’s increased standoffishness doesn’t mean you can’t plan ways to stay in touch.

If you’re worried about the weakening of the family bond, try establishing regular family times, whether it’s eating dinner at the table or even just sitting together to watch a movie.

Studies show that regular family meals improve not only the psychological health of teenagers but also their grades at school. This is also true when only one parent is present – and even in situations where the teen expresses an overall dislike for her parents.

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