Born to Be Wild: Why Teens Take Risk, and How We Can Help Keep Them Safe
By Jess Shatkin
A groundbreaking, research-based guide that sheds new light on why young people make dangerous choices–and offers solutions that work
Texting while driving. Binge-drinking. Unprotected sex. There are plenty of reasons for parents to worry about getting a late-night call about their teen. But most of the advice parents and educators hear about teens is outdated and unscientific–and simply doesn’t work.
Acclaimed adolescent psychiatrist and educator Jess Shatkin brings more than two decades’ worth of research and clinical experience to the subject, along with cutting-edge findings from brain science, evolutionary psychology, game theory, and other disciplines — plus a widely curious mind and the perspective of a concerned dad himself.
Using science and stories, fresh analogies, clinical anecdotes, and research-based observations, Shatkin explains:
* Why “scared straight,” adult logic, and draconian punishment don’t work
* Why the teen brain is “born to be wild”–shaped by evolution to explore and take risks
* The surprising role of brain development, hormones, peer pressure, screen time, and other key factors
* What parents and teachers can do–in everyday interactions, teachable moments, and specially chosen activities and outings–to work with teens’ need for risk, rewards and social acceptance, not against it.
Cybercivics teacher and author, Diana Graber, brilliantly shares with her readers how digital kids (tweens and teens) must learn to navigate through today’s online environment:
developing social-emotional skills
balancing virtual and real life
building safe and healthy relationships
avoiding cyberbullies and online predators
protecting personal information
identifying and avoiding fake news and questionable content
becoming positive role models and leaders.
This book is packed with at-home discussion topics and enjoyable activities that any busy family can slip into their daily routine.
Full of practical tips grounded in academic research and hands-on experience, today’s parents finally have what they’ve been waiting for—a guide to raising digital kids who will become the positive and successful leaders our world desperately needs.
Clean: Overcoming Addiction and Ending America’s Greatest Tragedy
By David Sheff
A myth-shattering look at drug abuse and addiction treatment, based on cutting-edge research
Addiction is a preventable, treatable disease, not a moral failing. As with other illnesses, the approaches most likely to work are based on science — not on faith, tradition, contrition, or wishful thinking.
These facts are the foundation of Clean. The existing addiction treatments, including Twelve Step programs and rehabs, have helped some, but they have failed to help many more.
To discover why, David Sheff spent time with scores of scientists, doctors, counselors, and addicts and their families, and explored the latest research in psychology, neuroscience, and medicine. In Clean, he reveals how addiction really works, and how we can combat it.
What had happened to my beautiful boy? To our family? What did I do wrong? Those are the wrenching questions that haunted David Sheff’s journey through his son Nic’s addiction to drugs and tentative steps toward recovery.
Before Nic became addicted to crystal meth, he was a charming boy, joyous and funny, a varsity athlete and honor student adored by his two younger siblings. After meth, he was a trembling wraith who lied, stole, and lived on the streets.
David Sheff traces the first warning signs: the denial, the three a.m. phone calls—is it Nic? the police? the hospital? His preoccupation with Nic became an addiction in itself. But as a journalist, he instinctively researched every treatment that might save his son. And he refused to give up on Nic.
Both books are a must read for any parent with a child that you suspect is making bad choices. No matter how smart or talented they are, or if you believe it’s just a phase — don’t be a parent in denial. Be proactive. You could be saving their life.
There are 60 coping strategies included in the book, and it’s divided into Coping Styles to make searching for a coping skill easier.
This book also includes several pages to support teens as they work on their coping skills, including:
Feelings Tracker Worksheet
Identifying Triggers and Making a Plan
Positive to Negative Thoughts Worksheet
Wellness Worksheets, including a Self-Care Plan
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There’s also a rich resource section full of apps, books, card decks, and other resources to help teens deal with stress, anxiety and anger.
Author: Janine Halloran is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor who has been working with children, adolescents and their families for over 15 years. She is the Founder of Encourage Play, Coping Skills for Kids, and the host of the Calm & Connected Podcast.
Building a healthy relationship with devices starts at home.
Author Diana Graber is helping parents teach their teens and kids build a healthy relationship with technology. It’s not about removing their devices – it’s about finding the right balance in a digital world.
Suddenly families across the globe are finding themselves at home with kids who are staring at screens more than ever. For many, this is a necessity. Technology is their only access to schoolwork and to their peers. While families may have had firm screen time rules in place pre-pandemic, these have largely gone out the window. And that’s okay.
Still, it is important for parents to help their kids take a much-needed break from their screens now and then, and this is easiest to do if you provide them with alternatives to their screens. Especially if it’s an alternative they came up with themselves.
Many teens and kids today find their most pleasurable experiences online, and that’s too bad because the real world offers lots of pleasurable experiences too. Dr. David Greenfield, an internationally-recognized authority on the treatment of Internet and Technology Addictions, helps his patients reconnect with offline life’s pleasures by having them write down one hundred things they can do without a screen. Even though many find this activity challenging initially, once they get going it becomes easier, and their lists become road maps, full of real-time activities to choose from when the urge to plug in hits.
This is a great activity for kids to do too. The goal is for them to make a list they can refer to when you suggest they take a break from technology and they inevitably tell you they have nothing to do. Here’s how to get started:
Get a large piece of blank white paper. Write “My Offline Bucket List” at the top. Challenge your kids to come up with at least 50 non-digital they’d love to do. For example, they could paint, bake a cake, learn to skateboard, or camp in the backyard (These activities will vary according to each child’s age and interests.) They could write a letter to Grandma, make dinner with you, or walk the dog. The point is for them to come up with at least 50 ideas and write them down.
Post this list in a prominent place in your house. Encourage your children to refer to it when they’ve been online too long. You might make your own list to refer to as well, and use it when you find yourself scrolling mindlessly through your Facebook feed. The point is to give your children fun, non-screen alternatives that they come up with themselves. Your kids may even find these new offline experiences so much fun that they end up craving a good hike over making another TikTok video. Who knows?
We often forget that this generation of kids simply do not know a world without digital devices to fill in every moment of boredom. Help them by letting them discover the joys of the offline world, before we all forget what they are.
Contributor: Diana Graber, author of Raising Humans In A Digital World
Young Men on Hookups, Love, Porn, Consent, and Navigating the New Masculinity
Author Peggy Orenstein’s new book, Boys & Sex, is based on extensive interviews with more than 100 college and college-bound boys and young men across the U.S. between the ages of 16 and 22 on intimacy, consent and navigating masculinity. They spanned a broad range of races, religions, classes and sexual orientations.
In Boys & Sex, Peggy Orenstein dives back into the lives of young people to once again give voice to the unspoken, revealing how young men understand and negotiate the new rules of physical and emotional intimacy.
Drawing on comprehensive interviews with young men, psychologists, academics, and experts in the field, Boys & Sex dissects so-called locker room talk; how the word “hilarious” robs boys of empathy; pornography as the new sex education; boys’ understanding of hookup culture and consent; and their experience as both victims and perpetrators of sexual violence.
By surfacing young men’s experience in all its complexity, Orenstein is able to unravel the hidden truths, hard lessons, and important realities of young male sexuality in today’s world. The result is a provocative and paradigm-shifting work that offers a much-needed vision of how boys can truly move forward as better men.
Listen to Peggy Orensten on NPR talk about her recent book, Boys & Sex.
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Boys & Sex is available at your favorite book store including Amazon.
Though anxiety has risen among young people overall, studies confirm that it has skyrocketed in girls. Research finds that the number of girls who said that they often felt nervous, worried, or fearful jumped 55 percent from 2009 to 2014, while the comparable number for adolescent boys has remained unchanged. As a clinical psychologist who specializes in working with girls, Lisa Damour, Ph.D., has witnessed this rising tide of stress and anxiety in her own research, in private practice, and in the all-girls’ school where she consults. She knew this had to be the topic of her new book.
In the engaging, anecdotal style and reassuring tone that won over thousands of readers of her first book,Untangled, Damour starts by addressing the facts about psychological pressure. She explains the surprising and underappreciated value of stress and anxiety: that stress can helpfully stretch us beyond our comfort zones, and anxiety can play a key role in keeping girls safe. When we emphasize the benefits of stress and anxiety, we can help our daughters take them in stride.
But no parents want their daughter to suffer from emotional overload, so Damour then turns to the many facets of girls’ lives where tension takes hold: their interactions at home, pressures at school, social anxiety among other girls and among boys, and their lives online. As readers move through the layers of girls’ lives, they’ll learn about the critical steps that adults can take to shield their daughters from the toxic pressures to which our culture—including we, as parents—subjects girls.
Readers who know Damour from Untangled or the New York Times, or from her regular appearances on CBS News, will be drawn to this important new contribution to understanding and supporting today’s girls.
Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood
Untangled, by Lisa Damour PhD., is a must read by both parents of teen girls and boys. She covers the struggles that parents face in the world of raising teens in today’s generation of tech, peer pressure (online and off) and much more.
In her NewYorkTimes best seller, Dr. Damour draws on decades of experience and the latest research to reveal the seven distinct—and absolutely normal—developmental transitions that turn girls into grown-ups, including Parting with Childhood, Contending with Adult Authority, Entering the Romantic World, and Caring for Herself. Providing realistic scenarios and welcome advice on how to engage daughters in smart, constructive ways, Untangled gives parents a broad framework for understanding their daughters while addressing their most common questions, including
My thirteen-year-old rolls her eyes when I try to talk to her, and only does it more when I get angry with her about it. How should I respond?
Do I tell my teen daughter that I’m checking her phone?
Where’s the line between healthy eating and having an eating disorder?
My daughter’s friend is cutting herself. Do I call the girl’s mother to let her know?
Perhaps most important, Untangled helps mothers and fathers understand, connect, and grow with their daughters. When parents know what makes their daughter tick, they can embrace and enjoy the challenge of raising a healthy, happy young woman.
Author Kari Kampakis has written two timely and amazing books for parents of both tween and teenage girls and boys in today’s world of peer pressure – both online and offline.
Here is one of her recent post’s – and be sure to order her books on Amazon or your favorite bookstore.
10 Things Parents of Middle Schoolers Should Know
It’s rare to hear anyone say they loved middle school. Even people with positive memories never tout it as the best years of their life.
Simply put, it’s an awkward season. It’s a time of constant changes, social shake-ups, swinging emotions, and intense pressures. If I’ve learned anything from working with adolescent girls, it’s how hungry this age group is for comfort and reassurance. I hear it in their voices and see it in their eyes whenever I speak to a group, a look of searching and a longing to hear something – anything – to help them make sense of things.
Please tell me it gets better, their faces silently plead. Tell me this isn’t it.
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Well, middle school kids, I assure you that life picks up. There’s a bigger, more promising world beyond this rite of passage. In the meantime, I have 10 truths to center you. I hope they bring you peace and a little friendly guidance.
Truth #10: Today’s most awkward moments will be tomorrow’s funniest memories. Keep a sense of humor whenever possible.
Those braces on your teeth that collect food? That acne on your face that miracle creams can’t cure? That giddy rush you get when your crush walks by, and you can’t think, talk, or see straight? One day these things will be really funny! They’ll be the memories you rehash again and again with your siblings and oldest friends.
It takes time, but as you gain confidence, your awkward moments become fun to share. You’ll readily admit yours and laugh at the comedy and conversation that result.
Eventually you’ll have a dazzling smile, clear skin, and someone to love. Your current problems will have closure. So stay mindful of the big picture, and remember that even your worst experiences will pass.
Truth #9: You don’t want to peak in middle school (or high school or college, for that matter). The worst goal you can have is popularity. Because what often makes adolescents popular – running with the fast crowd, dominating your peers, living a superficial lifestyle – eventually leads to problems.
A truly successful person gets better with time. You go from being version 1.0 of yourself to version 2.0, 4.0, 6.0 and so on. But when you chase popularity, you peak early. You stop growing and improving because you’re stuck in instant gratification mode, looking for quick fixes to satisfy your needs.
Make it your goal to peak later in life. Make good choices that set you up for a bright future. If you’re not a superstar now, that’s okay. This simply means there are better things ahead as you continue to evolve and learn.
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Truth #8: Technology makes it easier than ever to ruin relationships and reputations. We live in an age where people post everything online – feelings, emotions, and pictures. I love technology when it’s used wisely, but too often, it’s used impulsively. We let our fingers jump ahead of our brains, and within seconds, we can trigger hurt, misunderstandings, and serious issues.
So please, think twice before texting, emailing, or posting on social media. Cool off before giving someone a piece of your mind, venting, jumping to conclusions, reacting out of jealousy or anger, embarrassing someone, or sending an inappropriate photo. Use the Internet for good, not as a dumping ground.
And when you have an issue with a friend, call instead of sending texts. It’s easy to put in writing what you’d never say in person, or to interpret a message the wrong way, and the tension this adds to a relationship is hard to recover from.
Truth #7: Surrounding yourself with good company is imperative. There’s an old saying that’s particularly relevant to your age group: “Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.”
Yes, you’re called to love everyone, but not everyone deserves a place in your innermost circle. Some people you love up close and personal, and others you love at arm’s length because inviting them into your life invites disaster.
Sooner or later, a bad influence will rub off. You’ll either make choices against your better judgment or wind up in a predicament. As a mom I know told her daughter, she once went out with a guy who was very sweet to her but also wild. She didn’t see the issue until they had their first date – and he took her to a drug dealer’s house.
She told her daughter, “Even though I was innocent, I would have gone to jail if the police had come. I was guilty by association just by being there.”
Good friends lift you up. They don’t put you in risky or compromising situations. To become the best version of yourself, you need friends who hold themselves to high standards and want you to reach your full potential, too.
Truth #6: What makes you different is what makes you great. Middle school is largely about conformity. I see this firsthand because I live near a middle school, and over time I’ve noticed how all the kids dress alike, walk alike, and act alike.
Meanwhile, at my children’s elementary school I see authenticity and diverse personalities because the kids don’t know yet how to be anything but themselves. It saddens me to know that they, too, will eventually feel pressured to hide what makes them unique.
You’ll never influence the world by trying to be like it. You’ll never find your calling by following the crowd. God made you different for a reason, and what sets you apart plays into His plan for you. So listen to that quiet voice inside you and remember yourself as a child. Cling to the passions you had in your early years, because they hold more answers than you know.
Truth #5: It’s okay to not to have your life planned out.It’s okay if you haven’t discovered your “thing.” Chances are, you know kids with immense talent and drive. They’ve trained for years in their area of expertise, and they know exactly what they want in life.
Deep down you may be envious and uncomfortable, because you fear you’re getting left behind. You wonder why they have their act together – and you don’t.
But even the best laid plans will face curveballs. Even the most driven kids will wind up on different paths than they originally envisioned. So if your future isn’t mapped out by 9th grade, take heart! You’re still young and have plenty of time to discover what you were born to do. Just set goals for yourself, use your gifts, and head in a good direction. Set a positive trajectory so that when you do discover your thing, you’re ready to soar.
Truth #4: Your uniform is not your identity. Labels are big in middle school, and there’s a confidence that comes from wearing a football jersey, cheerleader uniform, or other team attire.
But remember that having a uniform – or even designer clothes – doesn’t increase your worth. You’re special because of who you are, not what you put on your body or what you achieve.
Overnight you can lose your place on a team. You can lose your talents, your wardrobe, your relationships, even your Instagram account. But if you base your identity on the one thing you’ll never lose – God’s love– your foundation is unshakable. You’ll still be standing even if you lose every earthly trapping this world says is important.
Truth #3: Applause can be misleading. You can make a huge mistake and still get cheered on wildly.Through social media, popularity is now quantifiable. You can gauge your performance by how many “likes”, comments, and shares you get.
But remember, numbers alone can be misleading. To get the full picture, you need to measure numbers against the truth. After all, Jesus Christ had 12 followers. Adolf Hitler had millions. These numbers speak for themselves.
The best applause to live for is the quiet peace inside you. What makes you feel good about yourself? What helps you rest easy at night? Criticizing someone to bring them down or make people laugh won’t bring you peace. Neither will watching someone else beat up on a kid as the crowd cheers him on.
You know the truth by how you feel deep down. And when you seek your applause from within, you don’t need the applause of public approval.
Truth #2: There’s a difference between helpful advice and criticism that holds you back. Be careful who you listen to. Some people want you to succeed. Others don’t. Develop a strong filter for whose words you take to heart – and whose words you ignore.
Some questions to ask yourself are: Do I trust this person? Are they respectable? Do they practice what they preach? Are they the kind of person I hope to become? Do they recognize my talent and potential and encourage me, or do they drag me down by harping on where I fall short?
How others talk to you influences how you talk to yourself. And since that voice in your head impacts your confidence, determination, and willingness to take risks, you want people in your life who speak the truth in love and always with your best interest in mind.
Truth #1: You’re AWESOME. Truly, you are. All these crazy changes are leading to something amazing. In the grand scheme of life middle school is only a blip, so keep it in check. Have fun, dream big, and make good choices. One day you’ll look back and laugh at the absurdities of this stage, and if you’re lucky, you’ll enjoy a lot of humor now.
As a writer, Kari Kampakis hears countless stories about the struggles people face. Over time, one theme has emerged: the hidden pain inside relationships. Kari will share why we need an empathy comeback and how practicing empathy can lead to kindness, understanding, and better life stories.
Kari Kampakis is a mom of four girls who lives in Mountain Brook. She is a blogger, speaker, and author of two books for teen girls. Kari’s work has been featured on national outlets like The Huffington Post and The TODAY Show. When she’s not writing or carpooling kids, she enjoys reading, exercising, and enjoying downtime with her family.
When I read this book this, I couldn’t put it down – and I don’t have teens or children anymore! It’s a page-turner and it made me realize the many parenting mistakes I made as a parent. It also actually helps me to understand why my adult kids act the way they do. Yikes!
Author, Jessica Lahey, was kind enough to answer a few questions.
Q. For the many parents that have told their teenagers from a very young age just how very smart they are and now they are facing the consequences since their child is either failing or severely underachieving — is there a way to turn this around if they are in middle school or high school?
JL: When parents get emotional at my speaking events, it’s usually the parents of teens who have been overparented into a state of near-helplessness, or praised for being smart or talented or gifted solidly into a fixed mindset. These parents get upset because they are finally coming to terms with how VERY little time they have left to turn that ship around. They can do it, though. The first step is to get SERIOUSLY honest with their teens about the fact that mistakes have been made. Extreme honesty may be frightening, but the only way to get buy-in from teens is to admit to mistakes, announce your intentions to let go and give your teen more autonomy and opportunities to learn, and – here’s the most important part – mean it.
Next, set crystal clear expectations – for school, household duties, wherever you are backing off, and explain what the consequences will be if those expectations are not met. Try to keep the consequences as relevant to the task at hand as possible. For example, if homework is not getting handed in, it will be the teen’s responsibility to set up a meeting with their teacher and find out what needs to be done to remedy the situation. Inform your child’s teachers of this change in protocol if you have previously been over-involved in your child’s academic life, and let the teacher know that you won’t be checking in, or logging into the grading portal, and therefore, the teacher will need to inform you if things go deeply awry.
Once you’ve handed some autonomy back to your kid, tell them that you trust them to be able to handle it, and that you are still there for them if they need you. There will be a honeymoon period where everything goes beautifully, followed by a relapse and testing period where the teen feels out the limits of his or her new autonomy, but eventually, the pendulum will come to rest in a reasonable, healthy place.
Q. Parent’s frequently will say, “It’s not my teen, it’s their friends/peers that they are hanging with,” when it pertains to negative behavior. If this is true or not, should parents intervene with friendships?
JL: It’s important for parents to understand that the role of friendship changes as kids mature. Early on in life, friendships are more about proximity than anything else. Kids pick friends from whomever is nearby. As kids get older, they begin to choose friends based on identities and traits they’d like to try on for themselves. Those friends may not always be your cup of tea, but try to think of these kids as a safer way for your child to decide whether they want to be like that friend. Talk to your child about how that friend makes them feel. What do they admire in that friend? Why do they like to spend time with that friend? Talk about your own relationships – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Talk about the people you have left behind because they made you feel bad about yourself, inspired competition, or tried to change you. Your experience, offered in a supportive manner, is invaluable to your teen as they navigate these friendships and trial identities.
Q. As a teacher, please share with parents of teenagers (especially since they will be heading into adulthood shortly), why the Gift of Failure is such an important lesson to learn – and it’s better to start now, then never.
JL: If there’s one takeaway I hope parents of teens will take away from The Gift of Failure, it’s that our short term goal of making our children happy and making ourselves feel good about our parenting are sometimes incompatible with the more long-term goals of creating competent, capable adults. Think long term. Think about how you will feel about your parenting a year from now, rather than tomorrow. Parenting is a long-haul job.
Jess Lahey has recently started a YouTube series on parenting kids and teens today! Subscribe to it now – don’t miss her tips, advice and experiences! She offers great insights and advice from motivating your teen to better understanding the parent-teen conflicts. Subscribe today! It’s free!