My oldest daughter turns 9 tomorrow – four short years from 13. In 9 years I will have 3 teenaged girls in the house. Yikes. I watch my friends who have teenagers, and wonder how they can keep themselves, their teens, and their other children happy and sane all at once. It looks so overwhelming from the outside. But then, when you are pregnant with your first child, watching someone with 2 or more children looks overwhelming, too. I know we all grow into our roles, but I worry about peer influence and what types of teens my daughters will become.
I was nervous about reading Joseph Nowinski’s The Identity Trap: Saving Our Teens from Themselves, because quite honestly I just want to stick my head in the sand and believe my girls will stay little forever. However, I signed up for this MotherTalk tour so I could learn about ways to help my girls so they don’t need to be saved from themselves.
The Identity Trap is not a quick or easy read. It isn’t a dull textbook either, though. Rather, it is a mixture of case studies of various teens and notes to help parents with teens in those situations (plus a great index!). Nowinski offers guidelines and FAQs to help the parent of a teen through various situations, to help guide teens away from a negative identity and towards a more constructive expression of emotions.
Some of the case studies are extreme and disturbing – a teen is upset about his family dissolving and his dog dying, and he ends up being charged with murder. I’m sure the most shocking stories are included so parents can see a worst case scenario. However, I found it jarring to read extreme (to me) case studies and then little boxes that say “Heads up!” with a bit of advice. Further, the advice and recommendations seemed rather like common sense:
“Heads up! When it comes to punishment, less is more!”
“Heads up! Talk about yourself!”
“Heads up! Learn about what’s going on in your child’s life…”
I plan to keep this book on my shelf and share it with friends who actually have teens. Right now, it seemed to be giving me information I already had – keep talking with your kids, know what they are doing, parent gently, pick your battles, and allow some rebellion as long as no one gets hurt.
I really like that Nowinski tells parents not to assume that their child is mentally ill – teens do things that can look like mental illness when they are actually totally age appropriate. I also like his attitude within the book, and I am sure that in a few years I’ll need a reality check about what behavior is OK and what behavior needs help. Having a wonderful index is also a huge plus – it is easy to look up certain behaviors and learn more.
I would definitely recommend reading or skimming The Identity Trap if you have teens, and picking out the information that is most useful for your family. You may not need the whole book, but by checking out the table of contents and the index, you’ll be able to get the content you need quickly.