Dr. John Morella Ph. D.
Give Teens A Break!
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Thirty million teens are our children, our students, our neighbors and our fellow citizens. They are not aliens and should not be viewed as troublesome and dysfunctional. We, as adults, representing many societal structures are quick to expect the worse from our adolescents; hence we provide teens with a negative prophecy. In essence, we give them less than a positive self-fulfilling road-map to follow. Doesn’t it make sense that if we expect the worse from teens, they are likely to behave consistently with those expectations. Then, because of a troubled few; we label them all as "terrible teens," not right; not true, not even close to accurate.

Dr. Morella, in his book, Give Teens A Break!, provides an interesting historical journey as to how adolescence became a defined stage in human development. Perhaps it was invented for economic, political and self-serving adult motives. What defines teens? Is it their age? Is it their cognitive or thinking skills? Is it their maturity level? Is it their dependence on their parents? Junior and high schools warehouse them in buildings. We established labor laws so they cannot compete with adults for jobs. Yet, at eighteen we can send them off to fight our wars, and at this same age we declare them voting adults. Marketing firms fight for the money they have to spend. Exactly what are their roles in our society? Do we as parents, neighbors, teachers and clergy, legal and governmental agents truly understand and listen to our teens, or do we just assume they will go through a turbulent stage, and expect the worse. Try this simple word-association technique with a parent, neighbor, or co-worker. Tell them you are going to say a word, and for them to say the first word or phrase that comes to their mind. Then say "teenager." I bet you will get mostly unflattering words or phrases. I hear people tell parents all the time, "Wait till your kid becomes a teenager," implying things will become stressful and full of angst for the parents.

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The author examined myths associated with the adolescent stage. Among the many myths explored are:

  • Normal adolescent development is tumultuous. Not true. Most teens traverse to adulthood without the “storm and stress” predicted, and turbulent is not the normal status of the vast majority of teens.
  • Puberty is a negative event for teens. Not true. Dr. Morella’s teen surveys and other research findings do not support this assumption.
  • The majority of teens are in conflict with their parents. Again, not true. Significant high percentage of teens and their parents report a positive relationship.

Dr. Morella examines teen alcohol and drug use and abuse, and you might be surprised that in spite of experimentation, teen use is not "out of control" and when compared to adult use, they fare better.

Sexual development and sexual activity of teens are surveyed. Factors that influence teen sexual behaviors are examined as well as variables that effect sexual behaviors. Sexual identity confusion and homosexuality are discussed. Suggestions are offered to parents on how to talk to their teens about their sexual development.

Two chapters give direct counsel to parents and teens respectively. One of the issues pinpointed for parents is how to discipline their teens, "without anger," and how parents can use written behavioral contracts when chronic conflict presents itself. Teens are asked to recognize that their narcissism is expected and natural; yet teens should be assisted in developing a healthy self-esteem that is realistic.

With so many teens experiencing divorce of their parents, teens are guided to understand and cope with their behaviors and emotions, and learn to gain self-awareness from this life stressor. Specific guidelines are given for both the teen and their parents during a divorce.

Numerous topics are presented that further factor into adolescent development; such as spiritual values of teens, coping with parenting styles, the myth of birth-order and the negative influence of the media on the perception of teens by our society.

Lastly, many websites are provided for teens and their parents to gain information on a large variety of teen issues. Knowledge is indeed, power.

The reader will come away with a more comprehensive understanding of our millions of teens, void of myths and misconceptions. Our teens need to be understood, and valued for the complexities in their contemporary Zeitgeist. We should not lose sight that teens are “a work in progress.” This book makes a compelling case for giving our teens a break from the negativity we mistakenly afford them. There is much to “chew on” in this unique view of teens.

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