Between dating, grades, piercings and privacy the life of a teenage girl is no easy cake walk. First time author Sarah O’Leary Burningham – a former Bellevue resident – explores the complex and sometimes tenuous relationship between teens and parents in her book, “How To Raise Your Parents: A Teen Girl’s Survival Guide.”
The teen survival guide is full of straight talk and smart advice on dealing with the “difficult years” that every teen girl experiences. The guide covers everything from negotiation and bargaining tactics to surviving the report card storm.
Still a teenager at heart, O’Leary Burningham, who attended Medina Elementary School and Chinook Middle School, draws from her own turbulent teen years and presents a clever and witty read filled with helpful tips and practical advice. The survival guide is a useful tool for both teens and parents to open up the lines of communication and understanding between the generation gap. The Reporter spoke with O’Leary Burningham about her new book and her humorous approach to dissecting the parent-teen relationship.
Reporter: How did you first come with the idea for your book?
O’Leary Burningham: I was 16-years-old and I came home late for curfew. I was notoriously late and as I stood in my parents room waiting to get ‘the talk’ I noticed a book on my parents night stand, “How to Raise an Ethical Teenager.” At that moment I realized my parents were trying to understand me as much as I was trying to understand them. I told my Dad I should write my own book on being a teenager. He told me I’d have plenty of time to write it next week when I’m grounded.
Reporter: Have you always been a writer?
O’Leary Burningham: I’ve always loved writing and I’ve loved books ever since I was a little girl. I worked at a University Press in college then went into book publishing and really got a sense of things. I’ve had the idea to write this book since that night I came home past curfew. I found a great agent and proposed my book idea. The whole process has been a very educational experience and having worked in publishing for so long I’ve enjoyed being on the other side of things.
Reporter: What are some of the topics you explore in the book?
O’Leary Burningham: The book starts with a short introduction on why parents should come with instruction booklets. The following chapters cover parent profiles, negotiation tactics, privacy issues, getting your driver’s license and so on. The chapter on The Art of Negotiation is really the foundation for the rest of the book. If you can figure out how to negotiate for a little independence then you can deal with the other topics much easier. I also touched on music, dating, friendship, and declaring independence.
Reporter: Do you think much has changed since you were a teenager?
O’Leary Burningham: I think there’s more of an expectation and pressure on students to get into college and the cost (of college) is more of a stresser on their generation. This is also the first generation to deal with cyber-life which is a difficult subject because it’s new for teens and parents. I think it’s a good idea for parents to look into technology and educate themselves on what their teens are into so they can relate better and know what’s going on in cyber-life. I’ve met a few parents who are iTunes addicts and I think it’s great because it puts them on a level playing field with their teen. There are parents out there who are just as techi as their teens.
Reporter: What type of research went into creating the survival guide?
O’Leary Burningham: I started talking to teens over the phone and this was around the same time that MySpace was really starting to gain popularity. I realized it was a community that reached teens across the country. I created a page that was safe and comfortable for teen girls to share their input and questions. I couldn’t believe how many friends I had join my page – it really built on itself. I now have thousands of teen friends on MySpace. I think sometimes parents view cyber-life as a scary unknown with all the blogs, social networking, e-mail and texting. I was able to use it in a positive way.
Reporter: What is “ParentSpeak”?
O’Leary Burningham: I put together all the catch phrases that parents were saying to their teens and spoke with parents about what they were actually trying to say. It all comes down to communication. The fun thing was that most of the parents and teens had a good sense of humor. What I found was that parents want the best for their teens and the teens really love and respect their parents. The book is really parent friendly and teaches teens how to work with parents to meet on middle ground.
Lindsay Larin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 425-453-4602.