The Teen Code
Rodale, 2004 (2004)
Read an Excerpt
Reviewed by Hilary Williamson
igh school senior Rhett Godfrey spent three years '
exchanging ideas with teens on how parents can communicate with us better.
' He tells us it's not what parents say that causes our kids to tune out but how we say it, and that most teens really do want to hear from us. He shares tips, in teen voices, on how to '
crack the code
' of their impenentrability. Rhett's mother, Neale Godfrey, gives her complementary perspective - as a mother, counselor and writer - at the end of each section.
odfrey covers the big topics that give us so many parenting grey hairs -
Alcohol and Cigarettes
Self-Expression and Privacy
Divorce and Remarriage
. The book ends with a useful list of Resources. As a mother of two uncommunicative young men (13 and 15), I very much appreciated hearing the teen point of view on how to have an effective dialog. There are sensible suggestions on picking time, place, and language; avoiding televangelism; not putting the teen on the defensive (which is easier to do than we think); and knowing what we're talking about (e.g. if we're warning about drugs, get up to speed first). We're reminded that we need to '
common theme is to tell the truth, whether about dangers of various behaviours, or about family problems (finance, divorce etc.). For example, we're advised to tell teens about the lack of quality control in street drugs; the chemical contents of cigarettes (I didn't know that Arsenic and Hydrogen Cyanide were in there), the risks of STD's and AIDS; the impact of permanent tattoos when job-seeking. Godfrey tells us (something that we already worry about) that a void in effective parental communication is filled by teens teaching (and often misinforming) each other. The misconceptions the author quotes from teens all over the U.S., on topics like drugs and safe sex, are pretty scary.
t the ends of chapters, Neale Godfrey offers us '
A Mom's View on What a Parent Can Do
' such as information on the danger signs of drug use, and a suggested '
' (a 24 hour parental amnesty on a drinking problem in exchange for calling for a ride home). She advises effort in communication - '
If you talk to your kids, you may not reach them with everything you say. But if you don't talk to them, you'll never reach them.
' She tells us that teens deserve their privacy, and quotes Dr. Ruth Peters, '
You don't ever snoop unless the kid has drawn first blood
' (in which case all bets are off) suggesting that we decide by asking ourselves '
Does it matter profoundly?
ersonally, I think that if men are from Mars and women from Venus, then teens are from Alpha Centauri. Though empathy and common sense go a long way towards bridging that communication vacuum, any help that adults can get in understanding the teen perspective is invaluable. I hope that
The Teen Code
will be widely read by parents, teachers, and by teens themselves.
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