Move Over Dr. Phil, Here Comes “Doctor Jenn for Girls”

“Ever wonder why it seems so hard to be a good parent? Do you ever feel like you don’t know how to survive the turbulent teen years? Or where you can turn for help? Rest assured… you’re not alone.”

Um, as that scene from the Jerry McGuire movie goes, “You had me at hello.” Doctor Jenn for Girls is a new site many years of experience in the making by neuroscience life coach Dr. Jennifer Austin Leigh (known by her 64,167+ teen pals on MySpace and in parent circles as “Dr. Jenn”). Now, she’s making a living by helping moms and daughters navigate the confusion and fears of today’s anything-goes world by building mutual respect to trump the adversarial “given” of familial combat pounded into us all via media cues.

Amidst the door slamming drama and trauma of tumultuous school sagas and parental trust betrayals portrayed in media as ‘developmental’ time and again, Dr. Jenn, PsyD takes a neuroscience approach to fun (it’s not oxymoronic!) to bring teens and moms closer rather than driving them apart.

She puts the latest discoveries in neuroscience to work to show how teen brains work differently than those of adults, and what adults can do to understand teen behavior and foster their healthy emotional development using media as the conduit. Sounds logical, yes? But as one who raised four kids to adulthood, she also knows the teen years are anything BUT logical, so her life coach work is increasingly in demand from moms even though the basis of her newest book and years of social networking was built on research from teen girls themselves.

Meet Dr. Jenn: (at left)

“Moms are freaked out over not having the “new” parenting tools they need to raise a teen girl in today’s anything goes world, and I’m now getting frantic emails from moms…not just teens, which is actually a welcomed sign that adults are eager moms DO want to learn how to parent better in today’s world.”

Now you can newly follow Dr. Jenn on Twitter or  Facebook, as well as her original hub at MS, and though superlatives don’t resonate with me because my media literacy mind negates same with ‘sez who’ universally, there’s no doubt she’s a ‘teen queen’ in sheer knowledge gathering and experience with girls.

She has her Creative Play (NeuroPlayTM) and pajama parties, plus mom workshops and weekend retreats, so she’s a brilliant marketer as well as coach, filling a void with a voice that bridges barriers and builds business to boot. Her universal guidance?

Observe. Listen. Understand. Communicate. Respect. Not rocket science I realize, but when you view it through the lens of neuroscience and tweak the WAY the conversation transpires, good things happen. (I’ve already tried a few of her tips!)

Freebies like Teen Talk, Advice for Moms, headline news about the ages and stages girls and women are ALL going through, and a genuine sincerity in tonality and purpose to open dialog and educate both ends of the age spectrum to achieve a greater understanding make it worth the visit. Sample tone?

Here’s one called “Hijacked! Where Are My Parents?” taking a limbic system approach to rationalizing irrational behavior,

With the economy in a nosedive, your parents may be experiencing something called limbic hijacking. No, some terrorist doesn’t have them held at gun point. But your parent’s brain doesn’t know the difference between the fear of losing all their savings or job and a gun to their head. Why? Because our brains are wired for survival.””

“Anything that feels as if it is a threat causes the limbic system in our brains to fire up. It dumps a ton of stress hormones in to the blood stream and makes people feel awful. It also stops people from being able to access the rational, logical part of their brain. Bottom line? People get cranky, irritable, anxious and don’t act their normal calm selves.”

She goes on to say she’s not asking teens to ‘parent their parents’ but rather, gives teens finite tactics and coping skills to help keep a healthy relationship with them and not pour fuel on the fires of the mind…it’s like a neuroscience cheat sheet to getting along…where teens can avoid pushback and ‘get what they need’ in a simpler, manageable way minus an avoidable flare up.

This of course, applies directly to parents too, as you can see how she reverses the strategy to talk directly to moms like this piece on daughters becoming ‘bears’ in this bear market!

“Moms, do you notice when you are worried about “big things,” that your daughter’s behavior becomes more unbearable? Has she changed her behavior, or are you simply on stress overload? My hunch is, you are on stress overload, and your daughter’s normal teen behavior gets on your nerves more. On the other hand, maybe your daughter is acting out more than usual.”

“Our teens feel the palpable tension in the air as we all watch our savings, our kid’s college funds, maybe even our next mortgage payment vanish as the free fall on Wall Street continues”…

She gives moms pragmatics, grounding and reassurance, along with a refreshing bracer of a tonality that seems to say, ‘put on your big girl panties and deal with it’ reminding us all of WHO is the parent and WHO is the child.

Despite Dr. Jenn’s ‘wild child antics’ at left (from her MySpace page, again, think ‘target market’) she is clearly serious about her work.

Approachable. Smart. Hip but not BFF material like those mama-wanabees where lines of demarcation get squishy and relationships blur the boundaries and security of the teen.

Frankly, it’s something I work hard to keep in check myself with my own daughter since she’s a master ‘social engineer,’ able to pry information out of me that is none of her dang business. “TMI” cuts both ways, so I guard myself a bit…My daughter and I are NOT ‘Facebook friends’ or any of the above and I think it’s MUCH healthier that way for us, despite the research showing this peer/mom/child dynamic appears in full force.

(See Just Kids Inc. Webinar trendcasting new data on “moms as peers” in the fast-changing media universe. –here’s a helpful one-pager from Just Kids, Inc. too)

I first met Dr. Jenn at the Common Sense Media MySpace to HipHop public forum when she moved here to the S.F. Bay Area from Aspen environs, and was amazed by her ‘cut to the chase’ candor and ability to distill ‘talk’ into action. (we both agreed that forum was a ‘scrape the surface’ snapshot for those that weren’t ‘in the trenches’ so she quickly earned my respect as a do-er rather than a taskforce-talk-about-it-type)

She immediately won me over as a youth advocate…

Sure, she has a plethora of product offerings on everything from listening skills to thousands of guys interviewed all over the world about ‘who they really want to love’ (hint, it’s not the airbrushed sexpots in the magazines with the ‘tude and ‘ta-tas” as you’ll read in her hot off the press book at left, “Girls You Just Don’t Get It!” What Guys Want You To Know About Love and Respect“)

…But her research is substantial and reveals many of the pop culture hunches that we’ve all been suspecting, exemplified in the High School Musical franchise and skyrocketing Twilight popularity of “innuendo over in your face” teen sexuality and exploration…

Dr. Jenn indeed ‘gets it’ and taps into the authentic generational relationship conundrums without being ‘touchy feely psychobabble’ (as my daughter called it when she mocked my extra calm voice during one of her flare-ups—She got that from the Judge Reinhold Oscar-Meyer-wiener-whistle-toting shrink character in the Tim Allen comedy The Santa Clause—so ouch, yes, kids words DO sting!)

Audience? Dr. Jenn speaks to girls from 8th grade through college freshman year, and keynotes to moms  revealing secrets to “teendom,” reminding us all that: Mothers take the brunt of their teen daughter’s wrath. It’s a natural evolution of growing up; girls “shred” moms as they vie for autonomy. It can be brutal.”

At some point I think I’ll need to hire her to facilitate a town hall style teen video forum with our Shaping Youth advisors and parent posse, because her wisdom is sage and her manner and style speaks to me in approachability and pragmatics. One of my favorite quotes of hers about getting real and being there for each other as a family says it well:

“You may not always see eye to eye on things, but you can live heart to heart.”

I need to introduce her to Nancy Gruver and the New Moon Girl Media crew…I have a feeling they’d all get along famously. Just as Dads and Daughters’ former founder Joe Kelly continues to be The DAD Man and ‘go-to-guy’ for the voice of male wisdom on the importance of how men can support their daughters with meaningful context and emotional availability,  Dr. Jenn joins the ‘experts’ adding a neuroscience layer to our relationship with girls, giving us a glimpse of how to make tumultuous years easier, safer, and more rewarding between moms and daughters.

In all cases, it seems like there’s a prescription for Respect Rx that needs dispensed readily and often.

More on a few other key ‘girl empowerment’ leaders of note including Tracee Sioux, Felicia Richardson-Battle, and of course Courtney Macavinta’s Respect Rx Rallies as we wrap up ‘All Things Girl’ week on Shaping Youth and get back to ‘our regular programming.’ 😉

Dr. Jenn Montage


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