File under: books Anne can’t shut up about.
If we bump into each other in person on a regular basis—if I chat with you on the field hockey sidelines, or see you at children’s birthday parties, or meet you for regular drinks or coffee dates—the odds are pretty good I’ve told you about this book. I talk about this book a lot.
If we don’t—well, thank goodness for the internet, because if that title stood out to you at all, this may very well be a book you need in your life.
A little over a year ago, at a birthday party, a friend jokingly asked, What’s been keeping you up at night lately?
Where to start?, I answered, and rattled off a quick list that ran from my favorite jeans developing a giant unmendable hole in the seat to the constant churn of drama in my daughters’ social circles at school.
I can’t help you with the first, she said, but I’ve got you covered on the second.
And then she recommended a brand-new book from a first-time author, called Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions Into Adulthood. My friend is a psychologist in the public schools, so I trusted her recommendation, found myself a copy immediately, and read it before the weekend was over.
I wouldn’t have picked this one up based on the title alone; my girls aren’t teenagers yet. But my friend told me that’s exactly why now is the time to read it.
I loved Lisa Damour from the first page, when she explains why she wrote the book, and the meaning behind the title. Life with teenagers (and sometimes, life with kids of any age) can feel like a tangled mess. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
She says that despite the day-to-day roller-coaster of the teenage years, there is a predictable pattern to teenage development, a blueprint for how girls grow. In Untangled, she lays out a map for teenage development—a rough picture of what needs to happen during the teenage years for girls to successfully transition into young adulthood. To make understanding this process easier, she breaks down this journey into seven distinct developmental pieces, explains what each looks like, and why it’s important. (Examples: learning how to harness their emotions, care for themselves, and plan for the future.)
This book continues to be not just practical, but also enormously reassuring to me, as it focuses on what healthy teenage development looks like in an encouraging, positive way. Damour emphasizes that these years can be hard at times, because change is hard—but that doesn’t mean something is wrong. She explains what each developmental piece can look like in a girl’s life, with numerous specific examples, and then highlights both the good and potentially difficult aspects of each piece in the developmental journey.
In Untangled, Damour takes pains to show the wide variety of normal, healthy teenage behavior, and how adults can become partners instead of adversaries as teens move toward maturity. But she also tells adults when to worry about their teen’s behavior: what red flags and warning signs to look out for indicating that a teen needs help. As a parent, I greatly appreciated the way she differentiated between “difficult but normal” behaviors and ones that truly merited concern.
Two notes about this book: I found it extremely helpful for understanding my sons as well, although the primary emphasis (and ALL examples) are about girls. And of the seven developmental transitions Damour dives into in this book, two typically occur during the middle-school years, ages 11 to 13, so if you’re a parent to middle-schoolers it’s not to early to pick this up.
I’ve read this several times already; it’s a book I would download into my brain if I could. If we’ve chatted at a parent coffee, I’ve probably already raved about this book to you in person, but if not—jot this title down, because it’s too good to fly under your radar.
Pick up Untangled wherever new books are sold: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, your local independent bookstore. (If your library doesn’t carry it, ask your system to purchase it—you’d be doing them a favor to get this one in the system!) I own this one, as I do many books I want to read and refer to regularly.
Is this a subject that speaks to you? What additional resources would you recommend for raising tweens and teens?
P.S. Girl drama, and the central struggle of parenthood, and 7 books I wish I could download into my brain. This post is part of an infrequently updated series: click here to see more of my best books you’ve never heard of.