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Book Review: Untangled by Lisa Damour

If you are the parent of a tween or teen girl, this is a must-read—and a must read again. The teen years are an exciting and turbulent time of change, growth, and gaining independence. It can be a scary time for parents as their child seemingly changes daily, but this book is a comprehensive guide to help parents understand what to expect and how to best support their daughters. It combines neurobiology, developmental psychology, and real-life examples to assist you through your daughter’s adolescence.

Damour describes seven transition phases that girls go through: 1) parting with childhood, 2) joining a new tribe, 3) harnessing emotions, 4) contending with adult authority, 5) planning for the future, 6) entering the romantic world, and 7) caring for herself. While these stages are not necessarily experienced in order or one at a time, they each play an important role in the transition into adulthood.

This book does a wonderful job of normalizing behaviors in teens that might be alarming to parents. Teens are wired to take risks, have mood swings and prioritize friends over family. It can be a roller coaster, but if you know what to expect and what is developmentally appropriate, you can better navigate the ride. Each section of the book offers “when to worry” so parents will know when to seek assistance with an issue.

You will hopefully have a string of serious conversations about all kinds of tough topics: friendships, body image, dating and sex, drugs and alcohol, safety…the list goes on. Untangled provides real tips for having these conversations in an open and honest way that will help your daughter take in the information you are sharing, feel comfortable to ask questions, and make the best decisions she can. Damour does take a more progressive attitude towards sex and drug and alcohol experimentation. While her approach is steeped in psychology and research, it may not align with every family’s value system.

I recommend this book to almost every parent of my adolescent female clients, especially when parents are struggling to understand what is developmentally appropriate for their daughters or working to improve communication. It’s a book I hope parents read more than once as their daughters transition from childhood to adulthood.



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