Parenting a Teenage Girl

Parenting A Teenage Girl

A roll of her eyes, sighing, “attitude”, arguments, pushing limits.  If you are the parent of a teenage girl, you may be all too familiar with these themes. What happened, you may think to yourself, to the sweet girl who used to love going to the park with me, having tea parties, and snuggling on the couch watching movies and eating popcorn?

Many parents, especially mothers, come to me wondering why their teen daughter acts so differently from when she was a young girl. Parents feel frustrated, confused, and even angry, and wonder what they can do to improve their relationships with their daughters. Here are some of the reasons why you and your daughter may be struggling in your relationship, and some risk factors to consider.

Developmental Stage

Developmentally, as children reach the age of 12-13, their bodies and brains undergo rapid physical and mental changes, some of which contribute to a desire for more independence and exploration. More abstract and “if-then thinking” develops. At the same time, your daughter is still prone to impulsivity, because the part of the brain devoted to thinking and planning is not fully developed until the mid-20s. This puts her at risk of making poor decisions that may impair her well-being and safety. In addition, the significant physical changes your daughter’s body undergoes may be something for which she is not fully prepared. All of these developmental changes can trigger anxiety and/or depression.

Challenges to Her Self-Esteem

Teen girls have always been bombarded by magazines, movies, and television images that present what a “desirable” shape and size looks like. Now combine these images with those from social media, and your daughter may experience a decline in self-esteem if she believes she is missing the mark. Many girls have told me that the “drama” with their female peers that began in middle school (or earlier) only worsens in high school. The desire to “fit in” and be popular can be overwhelming. This in turn can lead to an obsession with clothing, hair, and makeup, and disagreements when your daughter’s choices appear too extreme to you. Teen girls who do not perceive they have the “right” look can become anxious and/or depressed and may be at risk for developing disordered eating.

Academic Pressures

Many teen girls have discussed with me the pressure they feel to “live up” to the achievements of their peers, their own high expectations, and to what they perceive as parental expectations. For a teen girl with high-achieving and successful family members (especially her mother, sister, or aunt), the pressure can feel crushing, and lead to self-doubt and anxiety.

Final Suggestions

If you see changes in your teen daughter that you are concerned about, counseling may prove very beneficial. One-on-one individual counseling can provide your teen daughter with a safe place to explore her feelings and learn new coping skills. Family counseling is another option, and this can provide you and your daughter an opportunity to learn new, more effective ways to communicate. If you decide counseling is desirable, please contact me at your earliest convenience, and I would be happy to assist you and your daughter.

Lisa Johnson, LPC

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