Ep 50: Teenagers Under Pressure

Ep 50: Teenagers Under Pressure

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Episode Summary

Lisa Damour, bestselling author of Untangled and Under Pressure, reveals a startling trend on this episode: stress and anxiety are on the rise among teenage girls. Learn why this is happening and what parents can do about it from the psychologist who writes the adolescence column for the New York Times.

Full Show Notes

About 10 years ago Dr. Lisa Damour started to notice that stress and anxiety were on the rise among the teenage girls she worked with in her therapy practice and at the Laurel School, where she is the director of the Center for Research on Girls. The trend was so strong that Lisa felt compelled to focus on it for her second book, Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls.

But this anxiety isn’t something we need to protect girls from. In fact, Lisa says most of the time stress is actually beneficial because when we are anxious about an upcoming test or tournament, it motivates us to work hard to prepare and make sure we are ready. Also, studies show that we actually perform better when we are a little bit “revved up”.

It seems many girls today are worried they experience too much anxiety. However, Lisa told me that a teenager’s stress level only becomes “too much” when its completely out of proportion to what the situation calls for. Most of the time anxiety is actually a good thing.

As parents we need to start doing a better job of helping our teens “face their fears”. We need to teach them how to handle their anxiety and how to push themselves to do things that aren’t necessarily easy for them. Lisa reveals how to do it on this week’s episode.

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Parenting Scripts

Word-for-word examples of WHAT to say to your teen

1.  Remind girls that there are many different ways to turn someone down:

“You have a whole toolbox of communication strategies at your disposal. ‘No’ is like a hammer. If you’re in a bar and some random dude shows up and starts being gross on you, say whatever you want to him. You don’t know him. You are safe. You can lay it down is really cruel terms if you want. That’s one tool in your toolbox. You also have your ‘canned air’ where you can say to someone, ‘This is so fun. I’ve really enjoyed this. I hope we can hang out another time. I don’t want to do this tonight.’ That is another option.”

-Lisa Damour

2.  When your teen is anxious for a big test:

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3.  When your teen wants to skip a piano recital because she’s feeling nervous:

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4.  When your teen complains about something “awful” that happened to them:

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5.  Teach girls how to say “no” in a tactful way:

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6.  When your teen says they “can’t” do something (like math):

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7.  When your teenager asks for something but they haven’t been respectful lately:

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8.  Before you give advice, say this:

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9.  When something awkward needs to be said, get your teen ready for it with this line:

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Workbook Exercises

Step-by-step guides for applying the ideas from this interview

1. Give Your Teen Many Ways to Say “No”:

Adults often preach to teen girls about the importance of saying “no” when boys make sexual advances. And we tell boys to just say “no” to drugs. But, as Lisa pointed out, telling someone no is actually very hostile. If someone invited you to a dinner party and you said “no” they would see that as very rude and it might destroy your friendship. This is why it’s critical that teens have many tools in their communication toolbox for turning down things they don’t want to do. Make a list of different requests that your teen might want to practice saying no to. This might include social invitations, peer pressure, sexual advances, bullying, and more. Now sit down with your teen and say you want to practice refusal skills together. Take turns asking each other all the requests on the list and make a rule that you can never say no in exactly the same way twice.

2.  Use “Baby Steps” to Move Teens Closer to Conquering Their Fears:

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3.  Take The Focus Off Outward Appearance By Complimenting Other Things:

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About Lisa Damour

Lisa Damour writes the monthly Adolescence column for the New York Times, serves as a regular contributor to CBS News, maintains a private psychotherapy practice, consults and speaks internationally, is a Senior Advisor to the Schubert Center for Child Studies at Case Western Reserve University, and serves as the Executive Director of Laurel School’s Center for Research on Girls.

Dr. Damour has written numerous academic papers, chapters, and books related to education and child development. She is also the author of two New York Times best selling books, Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood and Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls.

Dr. Damour graduated with honors from Yale University and worked for the Yale Child Study Center before earning her doctorate in Clinical Psychology at the University of Michigan. She has been a fellow at Yale’s Edward Zigler Center in Child Development and Social Policy and the University of Michigan’s Power Foundation. She and her husband are the proud parents of two daughters.

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