Book Review: Surviving Your Teenager and Being Happy Anyway

First, this is not a book about parenting teenagers, though it certainly could help a parent get through a child’s adolescence emotionally unscarred. Rather, Surviving Your Teenager and Being Happy Anyway, by Judith Joy, is a book on self-care during your child’s teen years—not your child’s self-care—but your own.

Parenting is challenging, period. And, no age or stage is easier than another. I have found, though, that the teen years are piling on the anxiety. There’s a very real acknowledgement that time is running out, that I’ve got to stuff as much parental wisdom into my kid as possible. At the same time, my kid is no longer a kid and doesn’t want to be treated as a kid. Add on the fact that he’s hardly ever home, choosing to (understandably) hang with his friends and it’s easy to see why I’m anxious, sad, frustrated, and frequently angry.

Offered a review copy of Surviving Your Teenager, I jumped on it. Here, I thought, was real help for getting our young man to get his act together. Instead, I found real help for getting my own act together and focusing on, well, being happy anyway.

Surviving Your Teenager is, at its heart, a manual for releasing what’s not working and making it possible to discover ways that do. Joy outlines ten underlying principles, each with a chapter of its own that goes into greater depth about applying the principle. Those principles are:

  • We each have the ability to make decisions.
  • You do have the ability to make a choice.
  • Everything in your life is your personal responsibility.
  • Feelings are your guiding light.
  • Everything vibrates and either attracts similar vibrations or repels dissimilar vibrations.
  • The more you do something; the more it becomes a habit.
  • What you see around you is what you are thinking and feeling on the inside.
  • It’s only true until it’s not.
  • Reality is only a reality based upon your perception.
  • When you live with the feeling of love, life is easier.

Many of the principles may sound familiar; they are common to a number of consciousness and mindfulness practices. Joy describes feelings as having energy attached to them. “It’s usually this energy that charges the experience and directs us to take specific actions, which lead to certain results,” she writes and notes that neutralizing the charge makes it possible to choose different actions and have different results. Her “neutralizing” parallels the Buddhist practice of ending attachment and, I’m sure, practices in other systems.

What sets Surviving Your Teenager apart from books that explore similar emotional territory are the exercises she includes at the conclusion of each chapter. I tried some, decided to skip on others and dog-eared pages of those I intend to try. My favorites so far are Hand Balance (I examined whether I should ground the hell out of my son for an egregious infringement) and Locate Your True Feelings, which I used to explore how I feel about my procrastination in writing the Great American vampire novel.

I had an opportunity to put what I learned to use as I wrote this. My son and I had a difference of opinion about open cans of soda near computers. Ordinarily, this would have escalated into flinging accusations. But, I felt absolutely nothing negative when my son told me I was being ridiculous, then put the can somewhere safe.

Bottom Line

Surviving Your Teenager and Being Happy Anyway should really be titled Surviving Life and Being Happy Anyway. The techniques and exercises are clearly outlined and easy to put into practice. Sure, there is a fair amount of new-agey stuff, like opening to the universe delivering what you ask, but it’s not difficult to overlook if that kind of thing makes your eyes roll.

Surviving Your Teenager and Being Happy Anyway is a crazy good book.

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