Education Speaker Series | ‘Under Pressure’ with Lisa Damour
By Lou Fancher
The final presentation in Piedmont Education Foundation’s 2021/2022 Speaker Series features clinical psychologist Lisa Damour, Ph.D. on April 28. Twice a New York Times bestselling author (Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood and Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls), Damour is an adolescence columnist for the New York Times and director of the Laurel School’s Center for Research on Girls. She is the co-host of the Ask Lisa podcast, a regular contributor to CBS News, and while maintaining a private practice, Damour consults and speaks on teen health nationally and internationally.
The lunchtime seminar on Zoom will center on Damour’s second book, which addresses the primary sources of anxiety and stressors for teen girls in today’s culture. But because organizers of the series know all kids are stressed right now, they asked Damour to make a change and apply the book’s principles to girls and boys and non-binary identifying children alike, according to PEF board member Dana Lung.
Coping strategies for parents and educators are always Damour’s special focus, regardless of gender identity. Key areas of concentration are based on understanding a teen’s developmental stages and applying that knowledge and awareness when responding to the pressures teens experience at home, in schools, in their relationships with their peers and with the opposite sex or nonbinary kids, and on social media.
In her 2019 book, Damour posits that some stress and anxiety is actually beneficial, because it pushes teens to climb to the next rung in the ladder of development. But overwhelming stress, such as when healthy competition becomes aggressive behavior or attention from a peer or an adult becomes sexual harassment, needs to be recognized. Her advice comes with a warning: If left unattended, a teenager experiencing these anxiety-inducing oversteps can suffer serious emotional and physical consequences. Like in her first book that identified seven transitional periods describing the journey kids take as they move from caretaker-dependent childhood through the increasingly self- and peer-dependent teen years, Damour draws on her decades of experience in private practice and the latest research.
Perhaps a topic she will address in her presentation or during the Q&A session that closes each PEF speaker series event, is the subject of teen depression. “In the last decade teenagers have become increasingly stressed by concerns about gun violence, climate change, and the political environment,” she said in an April 11 Atlantic article (“Why American Teens are so Sad”). “Increased stress among young people is linked to increasing levels of sadness. Girls, more than boys, are socialized to internalize distress, meaning that they tend to collapse in on themselves by becoming depressed or anxious.”