Interview with Jean Walbridge

What experience do you have in parenting teens?
Good question! Nothing can substitute for experience in any field because it's only down in the trenches that you learn what a particular part of life is really like, what it's really about. I reared two daughters to adulthood and am now looking on as my grandson enters adolescence. Re my own experience as a parent, I can only quote from one of the letters from parents who write to my web site, "I had NO idea how "challenging" and heartbreaking raising a teenager would be. You want so much for them, and you worry so much about them. I had NO clue." My sentiments exactly.

In the book, I follow an interaction with my firstborn--kind of an "instant adolescence" moment. Most of what I talk about in the book is exemplified in this brief interaction with my 14 year-old in the middle of the night in our rural/suburban farmhouse.

Besides my own parenting experiences, I also draw on my 35 years of professional clinical experience with children and teens of all flavors, as well as on the wisdom I've gained in answering hundreds of letters from parents, teens, counselors, and teachers at my web site, ParentingAdolescents.
When did you first start writing?
Oh gosh, when I was 9 or 10, I guess. I wrote a cookbook of sorts for my younger sister and her friends, then 6 or 7 years old. I remember two (out of two) recipes: How to Peel an Orange, and How to Make a Peanut Butter Sandwich. I also sent said little sister out into the neighboring apartment houses (much to my mother's horror, when she found out) to gather info on current events for a newspaper I intended to publish, and I kept a secret diary in which I expounded on romantic and mysterious adventures with someone I dubbed Phillip Marlowe (I liked the sound of all those Ls).
What's the story behind your latest book?
Karen Martin, a gifted social worker and clinician, whom I hired as community chair to run a small mental health agency, had great success giving talks to the parents of entering freshmen at the local high school. She never had time, at the end of these talks, to answer all the parents' questions, and in 1998 one of the parents said, "You should have a web site where we could come to get more of our questions answered." I developed that web site, and since 1999 or 2000 have been answering all the questions, as Karen went on to train in psychoanalysis. It is the experience of answering all of these questions that is a chief source of inspiration for the book..I wanted to give parents the chance to "get it all" in one source instead of having to read and/or write multiple letters to the web site on different topics.

I absorbed Karen's wisdom and completed my own professional social work training and experience before embarking on the book. She had helped me with advice when my daughter Jenny burst into an autonomy crisis in the middle of the night when she was 14, and you can read all about that in the book, "Surviving Your Child's Adolescence."
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
The greatest joy in writing, for me, is in fact the same as the greatest joy I derive from doing psychotherapy: the discoveries I make about myself as I am trying to communicate with others. I learn what is hard, what was hidden, where I am all tied up, where I'm free. I learn stuff about my own history, deep feelings, the way my mind works. I think this is maybe one reason writing is have to dive so deep and yet come back up.
Published 2014-05-21.
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Books by This Author

Surviving Your Child's Adolescence
Price: $7.99 USD. Words: 46,290. Language: English. Published: October 10, 2012. Categories: Nonfiction » Parenting » Teens, Nonfiction » Parenting » Childhood development
Parents have come to Jean's web site for years for insight into living with teens. Attitude, chores, grades, mood swings, lying, sex, drugs, power struggles: she covers it all while helping parents understand the whys underlying teen emotions and behavior (and their own). "Jean Walbridge has written an incredibly useful book for both clinicians and parents." --Constance Kintzler, LCSW, Chicago