Expert incorporates teen perspectives in ‘Radical Parenting’ advice

Vanessa Van Petten

BY JAKE WEISMAN & JULIANA WISHNE , SENIOR, LADUE HORTON WATKINS & SENIOR, PARKWAY WEST

Vanessa Van Petten, author and youthologist, will be the keynote speaker at this year’s Yom Limmud Day of Discovery for Teens on Sunday, Nov. 20, sponsored by the Central Agency for Jewish Education. The Jewish Light interviewed Van Petten recently about her writing and how she has been able to create mutual understanding among teenagers and parents.

Van Petten began writing at the age of 16 as a way to rebel against her parents while many of her peers were getting involved in drugs or alcohol. Her second book, “Do I Get My Allowance Before or After I’m Grounded?” examines issues such as social networking, peer pressure, and lying.

“I started writing early and I was so jazzed to get my thoughts on paper,” she explained. “I actually find writing very therapeutic. My second book has been out for only six weeks now, and so far the response has been good. It focuses more on research as well as teen confusion.”

Van Petten believes that at age 26, she is able to still relate to teens while remaining a reliable source for parents. She connects her understanding of teen life to her vivid memories of growing up.

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“As a teenager, I realized my dad was reading books that were all written by adults, and I wondered why nothing was written by teenagers. As a youthologist, I study, follow, and observe youth activity and issues,” Van Petten said. “Not only do I work with hundreds of youth everyday, but also with parents to share insight into their kids.”

In addition to the books she’s authored, Van Petten has an ongoing blog at radicalparenting.com. She uses this forum to discuss a variety of issues.

“We have about 20 articles that go up everyday written by teenagers and about 100 thousand parent readers,” she said. “This is a paid internship for the writers and we get about two to three applications per week. I love being able to provide a different perspective when working with teens.

“I also have a website called thescienceofpeople.org where I write about relationships and human behavior research.”

Van Petten notes that while she is Jewish, she is not very religious. However, she has written a number of articles for Jewish parents, such as “What To Do When Your Son/Daughter is Dating a Non-Jew.”

“I love speaking to Jewish audiences because I can refer back to my own childhood-I was a bat mitzvah, went to Hebrew school for 16 years and was a madricha. I am a part of many different Jewish groups, speak at synagogues, bake challah, and go to Shabbat family dinners.”

As for her Yom Limmud presentation, Van Petten warns that it will be something totally different-radical, as her blog implies. Her lectures with students and parents will be separate, because she feels she is most effective at relating to each group when they don’t have to worry about what the other is thinking.

“I love personal stories, teenager confessions, and anecdotes. It will be fast pace and lively. Come with an open mind and remember we do not believe in perfect parents. We just like to bring interesting stories and research to help make the teen years smooth for everyone.”

Yom Limmud Day of Discovery

WHO: Jewish teens in grades 8-12

WHEN: 9:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 20

WHERE: Congregation Shaare Emeth, 11645 Ladue Road

THE 411: Eleven unique workshop choices, representing a spectrum of interests include, Advocateen 4 Israel; The Art & Science of Songleading; The Civil Rights Movement; Making an Impact; No Question is Taboo!; Risky Business; Soul Power; Tough Jews: Did They Really Exist?; What Do You Bring To the Table?; Yoga & Body Image; YouTube and the Jewish You. During the second part of the day, teens will meet with nationally renowned Teen Advocate and “youthologist” Vanessa Van Petten. Expert incorporates teen perspectives in ‘Radical Parenting’ advice.

MORE INFO: Contact Maxine Weil at 314-442-3757.