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English teacher interested in language and culture, and also in fiction using magic, myth, folklore and the supernatural. Now teaching part-time in a Leicester Upper School (ages 14-19) and also writing for children, teens and teachers.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Review: Decoding Your Twenty-First Century Daughter by Helen Wright

Sound and sensible advice for parents of teen girls 

This book is subtitled "The Anxious Parent's Guide to Raising a Teenage Girl" and it certainly lives up to it well.

The author is an experienced head teacher, having successfully run independent girls' schools in the UK and in Australia, as well as a parent and her calm and reassuring style clearly springs from her wealth of relevant experience. Reading as someone who both parents a teenage girl (and a pre-teen) and teaches teens, I found plenty to agree with and some ideas I hadn't come across before or hadn't thought of in quite those terms.

The tone of the book is very no-nonsense and straightforward, which may on occasion have the effect of making things appear simpler than they in fact are, but in a calming way. The book can be quite conservative (small c), making assumptions, for example, about the extent of control that a parent would wish to have over a teen's life, but at the same time it contextualises those beliefs and supports a lot of its ideas with evidence of one kind or another. Its straightforward tone doesn't feel lecturing or rhetorical and it is definitely something that can be read and sifted through - it is not an 'all or nothing' book, where disagreeing with one claim necessitates abandoning the whole thing.

One area that I felt it excelled in was in presenting ideas about the brain development of teens and how this influences behaviour. I particularly appreciated this information because it was completely new to me, and was presented in a way that made clear what this means for parents trying to raise a daughter. I also liked the writer's insistence that it is natural for our daughters to pull away and want to establish strong friendships, and her advice on making ourselves available to our daughters regardless to ensure a good lifelong relationship. She was also supportive to the reader in recognising how we might feel about this and suggesting how to work with it. A further area that I thought was well-handled was a section on the sexualisation of teens in our society with some sound, up to date advice on helping girls negotiate this minefield and grow up with some self respect.

The book is well structured and clearly organised, presenting a series of different issues that we, as parents of teen daughters in this day and age, could think about or be concerned with. Each issue is presented in terms of how teenage girls are affected and what parents can do (and what we shouldn't or can't do and when to seek outside help, for example in cases of drug problems or eating disorders). Each chapter features a bullet point summary at the end, using the headings: What Parents Need to Know and What Parents Need to Do.

Overall, I found this meatier than a lot of self-help or parenting books (probably due to the use of science and data to support ideas), while being sufficiently gentle in tone to feel helpful and non-judgemental. It is clear that Helen Wright knows her stuff when it comes to teen girls, and she has a lot of helpful things to say. I would definitely recommend this title for anyone with a teen (or soon-to-be-teen) daughter.

From the Product Description:

DECODING YOUR 21ST CENTURY DAUGHTER: The Anxious Parent’s Guide to Raising a Teenage Girl is a no-nonsense, snappy, practical handbook for anyone who has to guide a young woman through the most turbulent years of her life. Distilling the wisdom acquired by Dr Helen Wright during nearly two decades as one of the UK’s leading teachers, it is both a source of encouragement and a fount of knowledge.

Key lessons become memorable messages, collected into checklists of what parents need to know and what parents need to do. An easy reference guide tackles area of concern for parents of teenage girls, including friendships; self-image; sexuality; drink and drugs; and external pressures.

“Parents will be lucky to have Helen Wright's ideas and wisdom on hand at this critical turning point in their teenage daughter’s development. Her approaches to coping with eating disorders and cyber-bullying are practical, sensible and lucid. This is an excellent book, full of ways to improve the everyday quality of life with teenage girls." Professor Tanya Byron, clinician, author and broadcaster

Published 1 May 2013 by emBooks (ebook only)
I am grateful to the publisher for allowing me a copy via Netgalley for an honest review

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