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Untangled: A Guide to Parenting Teenage Girls

“There are few situations in life which are more difficult to cope with than an adolescent son or daughter during the attempt to liberate themselves.” -Anna Freud

If you are raising teenage daughters or stepdaughters, you may be wondering what happened now that they’ve hit the teen years. Has your teenager been having “meltdowns” or “tantrums” similar to the kind toddlers have? Are you having trouble connecting with your teenager? Why is your teenage daughter or stepdaughter suddenly pushing you away?

Raising teenagers in itself can be challenging, but when you factor in the stepfamily dynamics, it takes it to another level. Furthermore, researchers have found that teenage and pre-teen girls have the hardest time adjusting to a stepfamily, according to Dr. Patricia Papernow, author of Surviving and Thriving in Stepfamily Relationships: What Works and What Doesn’t. Dr. Papernow found that children under eight years old have an easier time adjusting to being part of a stepfamily than older children. Overall, boys typically have an easier time than girls.

How to Help

So what can we do to help our teenage stepdaughters? I’ve found the best way is through educating yourself about what teenage girls are going through. Even though you were once a teenager, teenagers today are growing up in a different world, with a new set of challenges.

That’s where Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood by Dr. Lisa Damour comes in. If you’re struggling with your stepdaughter’s moods or attitudes, this is a must-read for you. Dr. Damour, psychotherapist and researcher, walks us through the seven transitions or developmental strands to adulthood for teenage girls. She explains these transitions through the eyes of parents and their teenage daughters. Dr. Damour also gives concrete examples of what to say in difficult situations with your teenager.

Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions to Adulthood

Teenage Girls: When To Worry

If your stepdaughter is giving you or your partner attitude, talking back, and being disrespectful, you may be wondering, Is this normal? What should we do about this? Or maybe she is failing classes or was caught drinking. Often, we get an offhand response from a friend. “That’s normal. They’re just being a teenager.” We hear this so many times, but is it normal? When is their cause for concern? Dr. Damour addresses this in a “When to Worry” section at the end of each chapter, which provides examples of when to seek help for your teenager.

Overall, Untangled is an invaluable resource in gaining insight into what your teenage stepdaughter is experiencing and how you can respond to her. I would highly recommend reading it and sharing it with your partner. The more knowledge you have, the better equipped you will be to deal with the teenage years. Ultimately, it will allow you to be more empathetic towards your teenage stepdaughter and to know when there is cause for concern.

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