Nationally-renown speaker to get ‘Radical’ on Whidbey parents

Vanessa Van Petten

CNN columnist and popular teen-lifestyles and family advice author Vanessa Van Petten will offer Whidbey Island parents tips on understanding the world of teenagers when she speaks at 7 p.m., Oct. 23 at South Whidbey High School.

The free, public event is co-sponsored by the Readiness to Learn Foundation and the Langley Middle School Parent Teacher Association. The South Whidbey School District is hosting the event.

Van Petten will tackle “Teen Secret Communication 101.” Learn what parents do that triggers teens to withdraw and find out what they are really trying to say. Van Petten launched her parenting website,, in reaction to sudden friction with her parents when she was just 16 years old.

“When I was a teenager, the relationship with my parents was stuck,” she said. Her parents were studying parenting books.

“I realized one voice was missing. It was the voice of the teen,” she said.

Through her work, she hopes to get kids and parents talking. She also believes it is important to debunk the myth of the perfect parent.

“It’s empowering to parents. There are no perfect parents,” she said. Her research has revealed that teens who rated the relationship with their parents highly had debunked the perfect parents idea in their family, Van Petten said.

Van Petten is backed by science, research and a team of more than 100 teen interns with a goal of helping teens and parents maintain healthy and fulfilling relationships. The program is recommended for parents of kids

6 and older. She calls herself a “youthologist” because she loves working with and helping youths. She has a team of hundreds of teens who contribute to her Radical Parenting website by writing articles and discussing current issues for teens and tweens.

The teen author of the parenting book “You’re Grounded!,” Van Petten writes along with her teen writers, ages 12 to 20, to help parents and adults get an honest and open view into the world and the minds of youths. One of her teen interns is a fifth grader at South Whidbey Elementary School and thus the connection to the island was made.

“I have never been to Whidbey before. I love reaching new communities. What’s important to families here can be so different from families in L.A. or New York,” she said.

Van Petten, now 27, graduated Magna Cum Laude from Emory University in May 2007, the same month, her book “You’re Grounded!” launched. It was named in the “Top 5 Hottest Books” on Amazon its first month. She reaches more than 150,000 people via her website and social media a month and speaks to roughly 2,000 people a year about parenting issues. She encourages any parent — no matter how wary they may be of parenting advice — to attend.

“We get a lot of laughter,” she said. “People come into the room very tense. In the end, they come over and say ‘I was sort of dreading this but I feel excited to try these things.’”

She uses YouTube videos and colorful stories to get her point across.

Having a speaker of Van Petten’s caliber coming to a small island is also great news for the sponsors and hosts.

“We hope lots of parents will attend and that the evening will provide valuable insights about teens along with positive ways to support their development,” said Gail LaVasser, executive director of Readiness to Learn.

Call 221-6808, ext. 4620, to reserve a spot for childcare by Readiness to Learn.