The Emotional Lives of Teenagers Book Summary - The Emotional Lives of Teenagers Book explained in key points
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The Emotional Lives of Teenagers summary

Lisa Damour

Raising Connected, Capable, and Compassionate Adolescents

4.6 (83 ratings)
21 mins

Brief summary

The Emotional Lives of Teenagers by Lisa Damour is an insightful exploration of the complex inner world of adolescents. It offers valuable guidance for parents, teachers and caregivers on how to support teenagers in navigating their emotions and building resilience.

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    The Emotional Lives of Teenagers
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    Let go of unhelpful myths about adolescent emotions

    Parenting teens is filled with challenges – slammed doors, sullen moods, and “I didn’t ask to be born!” moments are all par for the course. But guess what? One of the biggest challenges you face in these teen years might well be overcoming your own unhelpful assumptions about adolescence and mental health.

    Specifically, there are three widespread myths about adolescent mental health that parents need to let go of before they can start effectively parenting through the teen years. Let’s break them down.

    Myth one: emotion is the enemy of reason. Teens, so the stereotype goes, are led by their emotions, not by their reason. That’s why they can’t be trusted to make sound decisions. There is a widely-held view that an emotionally-informed decision can’t also be a practical, or reason-oriented decision – emotions, we are told, cloud our judgment. This simply isn’t the case.

    Emotions are data. Whether they’re good or bad, our feelings feed us important information. If your teen tells you, for example, that they feel anxious about applying to a certain school or excited to take on an intense extracurricular activity, do your best to honor those emotions. You’ll be supporting them to trust their gut instincts – and teens who feel empowered to trust their own instincts are less likely to be peer pressured into behaviors they’re uncomfortable with.

    One caveat, though, even teens who are completely in tune with their emotions and instincts can engage in risky behavior. It comes with the territory. A teen who’s usually level-headed can get caught up in the excitement of being with their peers and act in a way that seems out of character. Experts put this down to the fact that teens can easily switch between cold cognition – the grounded, sensible thought processes that occur in calm, neutral contexts – and hot cognition – the thought processes that occur in heated, socially charged contexts. 

    In a cold cognition context, your teen might be adamantly opposed to risky driving. In a hot cognition context, where risk-taking behavior comes with social rewards, they may abandon that rational stance. Put in the work when your teen is in a cold cognition context: validate their feelings, ask them how they’ll handle themselves when their cognition inevitably does switch from cold to hot, and plan out strategies to help them stay safe – volunteering to be designated driver at a gathering where others will be drinking, for example.

    Myth two: difficult emotions are best avoided. No parent has ever despaired that their teen was too sunny or upbeat. But for many parents, watching their teen experience unpleasant feelings – angst, anger, disappointment, or pessimism – can be an automatic cause for concern. Should this be the case?

    The truth is, when we experience and process difficult emotions, we grow as people. When your child cheats on a test and is caught, the guilt they feel might prompt them to reflect on the kind of person they want to be. When your kid goes through a painful break-up, the misery they feel might prompt them to seek support from friends and family and strengthen their social networks. As a parent, you instinctually try to shield your child from pain. But doing everything you can to spare them suffering may do more harm than good. So when your teen is experiencing difficult emotions, don’t try to dismiss them or move to a more pleasant subject – validate their feelings and allow them to process. Allowing your teen to navigate choppy emotional waters helps them cultivate resilience and meet challenges with confidence later in life.

    Myth three: teens are emotionally unstable. Emotional? Yes. But unstable? Adolescents feel their feelings with intensity and it’s tempting to assume that this makes them unstable and emotionally fragile. Actually, your teen is probably much more emotionally robust than you realize.

    If you feel like your teen is melting down all the time, consider the possibility that you’re their safe space. Adolescents can often keep their emotions in check at school or in social settings. Ideally, home is a place where they feel safe to express emotion and admit vulnerability. If you feel like you’re dealing with incessant tears, mood swings, and depressive episodes that doesn’t mean your teen is unstable – it means they feel comfortable enough with you to let their feelings show.

    And remind yourself that just because your child isn’t always happy doesn’t mean they’re not mentally healthy or stable. The definition of good mental health is having the right emotions at the right time. Yes, even ugly emotions, like anger, frustration, or hopelessness. By supporting your child to feel appropriate, proportionate emotional responses to difficult situations you can help them grow into an emotionally robust adult.

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    What is The Emotional Lives of Teenagers about?

    The Emotional Lives of Teenagers (2023) is a best-selling guide to navigating the highs and lows of parenting your child through adolescence. It dispenses honest, practical, research-informed advice aimed at helping parents understand, support, and connect with their teens in a way that honors the huge transition they’re experiencing.

    The Emotional Lives of Teenagers Review

    The Emotional Lives of Teenagers (2019) is a thought-provoking exploration of the complex world of teenage emotions and behavior. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • With its deep insights into the inner lives of teenagers, it helps parents and educators gain a better understanding of the challenges they face.
    • Packed with practical advice and strategies, the book offers guidance on how to effectively support teenagers' emotional well-being and navigate their developmental journey.
    • Through real-life stories and relatable examples, the book brings the content to life, making it engaging and relatable for readers.

    Who should read The Emotional Lives of Teenagers?

    • Parents looking for effective strategies to support their teen’s mental health
    • Educators and youth workers seeking clinically informed advice about the adolescent years
    • Anyone who wants to help the teenagers in their lives feel loved, supported, and heard as they transition into adulthood

    About the Author

    Lisa Damour, PhD is a clinical psychologist specializing in adolescent mental health, contributor to the New York Times and CBS News, host of the Ask Lisa podcast, and author of three best-selling books about the mental and emotional challenges of adolescence.

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    The Emotional Lives of Teenagers FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Emotional Lives of Teenagers?

    The main message of The Emotional Lives of Teenagers is insightful guidance on understanding and supporting teenagers' emotional development.

    How long does it take to read The Emotional Lives of Teenagers?

    The reading time for The Emotional Lives of Teenagers varies, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Emotional Lives of Teenagers a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Emotional Lives of Teenagers is a worthwhile read, offering practical advice and valuable insights into the emotional lives of teenagers.

    Who is the author of The Emotional Lives of Teenagers?

    Lisa Damour is the author of The Emotional Lives of Teenagers.

    What to read after The Emotional Lives of Teenagers?

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