Dear Dr. Wes: Real Life Advice for Parents of Teens
About the Book
This is a book in which one board certified family psychologist and eight really sharp teenagers offer candid advice to parents on just about every issue you may face with your adolescent: sex, love, contraception, pregnancy, sexual identity, school, divorce, self harm, the future, friendship, marriage (yours and theirs), college, suicide, anxiety, ADHD, hope and hopelessness, and so on. We also offer a healthy dose of social commentary, as we consider how the forces of our modern world are shaping the next generation—and vice versa.
Based on eight years of experience as an advice columnist, I know some readers will see our suggestions as quite liberal, particularly as they pertain to sexuality among teens. Others will see our advice as very traditional, emphasizing the importance of communicating values to teens, and treating one another ethically. However you choose to label our work, you don’t have to agree with every word of it. In fact, you probably won’t, and you’ll find that sometimes even we don’t agree with each other on the best approach to a given situation. That’s why our newspaper column is called Double Take.
Instead, think of this book as pragmatic, coming from experience rather than theory, offering ideas and perspectives rather than rules and absolutes. It addresses the way things are for teens, not how we imagine or wish them to be. Like it or not, one decade into the millennium, these are the problems our teens face; the questions they ask adults—or worse, are afraid to ask. Their concerns run the gamut from excluding a friend from a sleepover to deciding when to have sex and with whom, to coping with unspeakable violence in the world around us. Our goal is to get parents and teens thinking and talking, as much as it is to suggest solutions to their specific problems.
What makes this book and its companion for teenagers really unique, however, is the underlying concept of Double Take itself. Each week we write a column for the Lawrence Journal World that combines my nineteen years of psychological training and clinical experience with the youthful wisdom of a real expert on adolescence, a sixteen- to eighteen-year-old high school student. If you want to learn more about how the authors are selected, check out our welcome page.
Roughly two thirds of the columns in this book were written in response to letters submitted by teens and parents. The rest were written on topics the co-authors and I selected from current events, personal experiences, and trends affecting teens. Some were solicited from people who contacted me for clinical advice, though confidentiality and informed consent were carefully maintained. Some columns herein were updated and edited to minimize duplication and fit the format of a book.
Before we get started, I’ll offer my first piece of advice: Don’t wait until you have a teenager to read this book. If you’re the parent of a younger child or preteen, now is the time to start your improvisation. If you digest this book cover-to-cover, you’ll be ready for almost any parenting situation, and if something comes up that we didn’t cover, send us an email and we’ll get your question into the paper and online. If you’ve already passed the dreaded thirteen-year threshold with your child and feel like time is running out, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered too. The chapter and column titles are laid out so you can browse and skim to pick out your crisis de jour. That way you can read fast, catch up and get ahead of the next curve. There will be many.
The original point of Double Take was to build empathy between generations and foster conversation on crucial issues. So, in that spirit of cross-training, we urge parents to read both volumes to get a better flavor of what your kids are dealing with and how best to advise them. Likewise, we urge teens to at least skim this book, even if they just want to know what we’re whispering in your ear and see whether or not they agree with our advice.
Even as I was making final edits on both books, I found myself laughing on one page and near tears on the next. But, most of all, I was reminded of just how smart teenagers are, and how smart they have to be to get through this complex world we’ve created for them.
—Wes Crenshaw, PhD