Please accept as our gift to blog readers, four samples from Dear Dr Wes: Real Life Advice for Parents and Real Life Advice for Teens. Just click the submenus above to read two columns from each book. We hope they’ll get you interested in buying a copy on Kindle or in Paperback. Here’s a little backstory on each column offered by Dr. Wes, exclusively for our blog readers:
Naked Pictures: This column came out when phone cameras were just becoming affordable. And what was the first thing teens did with digital photography on a wireless device? Take what would eventually be called “sexting” pix and send them their loved-ones. That seemed to go okay, until the loved ones became unloved. Thereafter the pictures seemed to find their way around the school. This was all very shocking back in 2007. It’s in the news everyday now, but what we said in that column (and two more since) still holds true. The minute parents give high tech items to teens, it’s time to have a conversation about ethical use. Very few kids understand that taking and transmitting those pictures is a crime, and sometimes a federal one. Julia makes an excellent point that few teens who do this are intending to make child porn, but only sharing intimacy with a partner. It just tends to turn out very differently in the end. As with so many teen issues over the last eight years, Double Take hit this one long before the national media.
Everyday Suicide Prevention: As I read back over this, I can feel a wisp of frustration. The column came out after a series of teen suicides in several area communities, with no connection of any kind between them. All had clearly been planned out in advance, and none came with any warning–even among the individual’s closest friends and confidants. Rather than publish another list of warning signs (ours appears in DDW: For Parents), I felt we needed to speak to something a little larger. You might call it “the way we choose to love each other…or not.” I wanted to be clear on my end of the column, that nobody is responsible for suicide, except the victim him or herself. In fact, as much as I enjoyed Jay Asher’s book, I felt uncomfortable with the sort of “collective guilt” idea that came through the pages. But then I realized that most surviving young people and family members tend to experience that guilt, and often without reason. There really isn’t a good list of symptoms that distinguish suicide with any precision. Instead, my take away from 13 Reasons Why, was that teens should simply become more conscious of their power over each other, that rather than focusing on what to worry about in their friends, they and (we) should focus on what they can do to make each other’s lives more livable. When Samantha sent me her side of the column, I gasped. I still do. Her ability to take ownership of her own struggle to tolerate those who are difficult, was an amazing moment of self-awareness that each of us shares. Her idea of tipping the balance toward the positive, still sticks in my memory and touches me.
Anti-Role Models. This column seems like it was written yesterday, but in fact it came out in 2007 after a series of incidents involving particularly bad adult behavior. I actually had to cut several examples the writer cited because they were so well known, and I didn’t want to get anything in the paper that would speak directly to pending court cases. As I thought the column through I realized that we aren’t doing teens any more favors by creating the “officer friendly” stereotype than we are scaring them with “stranger danger.” Teens need to consume relationships and personalities critically, and get to know others as people not role models or, as I call this column, anti-role models. In his usual inimitable style, John won’t let us off the hook. Without even revealing his politics, John scores one for the voter–reminding us that anyone who has issues with his or her elected leaders and their bad behavior, should get a little education as to who is in charge. In essence, he reminds us that we get the government we deserve–and by extension, the role models.
Worth the Risk: While I empathized with this mom’s concerns and her struggle to accept her daughter’s emerging sexuality, I really thought she was missing the point. This girl appeared to me to be trying to activate her mom on her behalf (on both their behaves, really) to protect herself and advance her sexual health, at least in terms of pregnancy. This looked to me like a great opportunity to open up The Talk (don’t miss that column in DDW: For Parents), and this mom was focusing on her daughter’s possible duplicity. By the way, I got a pretty harsh letter from a reader who took me to task for not pointing out that birth control DOES NOT prevent STIs. Its one of the few we didn’t run, because I asked a sample of 20 teens and none of them believed birth control pills could prevent STIs nor did they know anyone who believed that. Actually, I’ve never met anyone in 20 years who did. As I said in the column, we need not debate the wisdom of teen sexuality. We just need to keep it in some sort of healthy, ethical realm. Kelly really picked up on the parent-child dynamic from a teenager’s perspective and helped deliver that same message–albeit a bit more conservatively than I had. That’s why we call it Double Take.