Teenagers Are Wiser Than We Think: A Conversation With Lisa Damour

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Let’s face it, many adults might dismiss teens as not-quite-ready to meet the real world. Lisa Damour doesn’t. A clinical psychologist, author, and the 55th guest on the Make Meaning podcast, Lisa has studied teenagers for her entire career. Her work has shown that teens actually have the ability to perceive situations with clarity and accuracy often missed by adults.

Lisa knows teens. In fact, she is the author of two New York Times best-sellers. 

Both books explore adolescent development in girls – “Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions Into Adulthood” (Ballantine, 2016) and “Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls,” (Ballantine, 2019).

She also writes the monthly Adolescence column for the New York Times. Much of her expertise comes from a private practice in Ohio that she maintains to this day. Lisa also travels to work with schools around the United States.

Lisa has been working with, listening to, and trying to understand teens for a long time. She’s really good at it.

During her studies, Lisa has learned that adolescence is when we start to develop passion, purpose and meaning. In her podcast episode with Lynne Golodner, Lisa defends the age group that often gets a bad reputation.

In fact, she believes understanding teens can not only help us continue to guide young people to find purpose and meaning but can also help us discover our own.

Working With Teenagers

Recognized as a thought leader by the American Psychological Association, Lisa Damour loves working with teenagers. She finds them to be “incredibly clear-eyed; they really see the world in accurate ways,” she said on the podcast.

“Teenagers are highly perceptive, highly accurate and have an almost skinless perception of the world,” she adds.

Of course, not everyone shares the same view. 

“There’s a great bias against teenagers,” Lisa says. “They’re seen as either superficial, self-centered all the time or that their thinking isn’t clear or their judgments are poor.”

Lisa’s advice for anyone working with teenagers is to take them seriously.

“They really appreciate that”. Because teens are used to being dismissed by adults, it makes a difference when an adult takes the time to hear them.

How Lisa Damour Finds Meaning

Both Lisa and Lynne have similar beliefs. They believe that meaning comes from interacting with great people and developing strong relationships that benefit both parties. They believe fostering deep connections with others is what makes life meaningful.

For Lisa, in her work with teenagers, as she helps them find their purpose, it helps her find her own. “I have found, when I’ve worked with teenagers, that what they’re looking for is validation – to be heard, and to matter,” Lisa says.