Field Guide To The American Teenager: A Survival Guide For Parents
One evening a number of years ago, two mental health professionals, Jerome C. Vergamini, MD and Ray Miskimins, Ph.D., away from their offices on a steelhead fishing vacation decided to put their heads together to collaborate on a book about teens. The result of that decision is the book "Field Guide To The American Teenager: A Survival Guide For Parents". We have conducted an interview with the authors.
Every teen is different and while writing this book, how do you seek to address all the possible issues faced by parents today?
We did not seek to address all the possible issues facing parents of teens. That would be an impossible task. We had hoped to give parents some basic information on the most important topics related to parenting teenagers, as well as some resources for parents about issues beyond the scope of this book. We started the book with information about growth and developmental stages in teens and about communication with them and then proceeded to utilize these concepts in looking at other areas that they confront such as schools, peers and family.
Which is the most common impact upon parenting that you and your co-author have discovered so far?
When people become parents, the models that they have experienced themselves will undoubtedly impact them the most. They have been raised in a certain ethnic culture, family culture, and community culture. Their tendency is to think about what their parents or community did in a given situation. They don’t always ask themselves whether or not it was a good idea or continues to be, if it was back then. Parents also tend to want to be liked by their kids, but they need to be willing to step back from being their friends to becoming a teacher and manager when it is needed.
What kinds of information other than mental health, substance abuse and peer relationships do you frame in your book?
As I mentioned above, our book is framed in discussing growth and development and communication first, then proceeding to incorporate these concepts into other areas of growth and conflict for teens, so in addition to mental health, substance use and peer relationships, we have included chapters on family relationships, school, work, recreation, sex and intimacy, and religion and spirituality.
When a child/teen is emotionally disturbed, which are your experiences that you draw on to share the possible solutions?
Both my coauthor and I have worked many years both in institutions and in private practice treating kids and teens for a variety of mental health issues. We are well aware that parents do not always have at hand the knowledge or the ability to “do it alone”. Thus, we have given enough information for parents to be able to recognize when they may be needing further help from professionals to work on some of the more difficult problems that may arise.
How are you and your co-author similar in terms of background, personality, profession and family structure?
Both my coauthor and I have received doctorates, his in psychology, mine in medicine and psychiatry. We have both worked in a variety of institutions with kids, teens and adults as well as in private practices, seeing whomever walks in the door. We both have had marriages that have lasted over 50 years to the same woman. We both have 3 children, both boys and girls. We both have had a child who has had some special needs. We met in a facility where he was the psychologist and I was the psychiatric consultant. We decided to write this book while on a fishing trip together after a day of consulting and saw a need for something to help parents navigate the teen years.
What is your key takeaway for your potential readers?
Learn to be an effective teacher by modeling for your teens as well as knowing when to back off and set appropriate limits.
What are your hopes for these parents?
That they can recognize that in spite of glimpses of maturity in their teens, that they are still incomplete human beings who continue to need patient but consistent guidance.