Every Adult's Guide to Talking to Teens.
Markham: Pembroke Publishers, 1995. 128pp, paper, $12.95.
Review by Harriet Zaidman.
As adults, many of us have (thankfully) forgotten the intense
periods of self-doubt, anxiety, and despair that accompany this period of
growth. When we attempt to solve an issue that arises with an adolescent,
whether it be in the classroom or in the home, we do so from our adult
perspective, based on our experiences and our desire to help. What we
sometimes forget is that the adolescent also has his or her own perspective
that needs to be heard and addressed before the issue at hand can be
dealt with effectively.
Kathy Paterson is a junior-high teacher with twenty years of experience
dealing with the ups and downs of adolescence. She addresses teachers,
parents, and youth workers in her book, and offers them frank advice on
the whole range of problems that arise during this period of great change
in a young person's life. Examples from her years of teaching illustrate
nearly every issue she discusses.
Every Adult's Guide to Talking to Teens is based on a
questionnaire Paterson distributed to teenagers as a way of finding out
which issues were important to them. (The questionnaire is included in
the appendix.) The questions allowed the respondents space to comment,
and addressed issues many adults are not comfortable discussing. Topics
ranged from sexuality to drugs, homework, attitudes about adults, and
self-esteem. The resulting book has six chapters, further divided into
subtopics. Analysis develops as the chapter proceeds.
Paterson offers solutions, but is never preachy. She acknowledges
that the adolescent behaviours she discusses are common, and that expert
help must be sought for more extreme cases. She offers a variety of
suggestions for creating a flexible structure to negotiate solutions to
problems, develop an atmosphere of mutual respect, and build a framework
for different types of discipline.
The thrust of her argument is that adults can provide positive role
models for teens by being there for them, by listening to them, and by
acknowledging that the teen perspective is as important as the adult
perspective. Problems have solutions to which the adult and the teen can
The "problem" of dealing with adolescent challenge to authority and
experimentation with emerging adulthood is nothing new. But Paterson
gives a very current perspective on it by dealing honestly with the
issues kids face in the 1990s. Every Adult's Guide to Talking to
Teens provides a good overview for adults interested in improving
their ability to communicate with teenagers.
Harriet Zaidman is a Winnipeg teacher/librarian.
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