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In my grandparent’s generation, teenage girls were called debutantes; times have changed and so have the names used. Today, a teenage girl title ranges from adolescent, teenager, teenybopper, deb, young lady, or even drama queen. Helping the girls in your life move from childhood through their teen years to adulthood successfully is quite a challenge. I hope that this week, you will gather a few jewels of wisdom on helping your favorite deb navigate these tricky years.
Dealing with Physical Changes. The physical changes young girls go through can be a reason for stress; every girl develops on their own time schedule. Puberty coming early or later than her friends can be traumatic. Yes, raging hormones can create emotional and behavior problems, but it is a mistake and simplistic to think that this is the sole reason for all teenage problems. The world of a teenager is a very complicated, with mixed messages coming from media, TV, movies, social media, music, family, church, friends, and school.
Ignoring the Media Image. Miley Cyrus twerking. The Kardashian’s life style. Body image focused commercials. Do you realize that the average teen girl spends 10 hours a day looking at media? Yes, a teenage girl’s view of her appearance does affect her. In one unique study, teenagers took a math test wearing a sweater and another math test in a swimsuit. The boys scored the same regardless of what they were wearing, while the girls’ performance was significantly better when dressed in sweaters than in a swimsuit. The girls noted they just did not do well if they thought they did not look good. Your teenager needs to develop the skills needed to challenge the media message.
Here are some ideas of conversation starting questions designed to help a teen girl develop critical thinking. How do you think the media portrays women? What do you think makes a woman attractive? What women do you admire most? What about them do you admire? What would you like people to say in your epitaph?
Teen girls face sorting through all the media messages about how they should look and act. She faces defining who she is, what is important to her, and her hopes, dreams, goals and the plan for her future. A big task and your teen may need help.
Building Healthy Independence. Teens want 100% independence. Parents, generally, want to give much less. This is a recipe for major tension in the family. As part of growing up, your teen needs to learn independence and to form an individual identity. Of course, you and your teen need to develop boundaries that allow your teen to build this independence without defiance or rebelliousness. As a family unit, the goal should be to allow the teenager to learn how to discuss issues in a respectful style.
Clarifying True Self. Girls define their core self during their teen years; your teen is determining her strengths and what is important to her. Does she need help recognizing her skills and strengths or help learning to make values-guided decisions? Creating that core-self is not an overnight process; she will need time to uncover what makes her unique, her gifts, how to respect and learn from her emotions, and what she wants to stand for in this world.
Finding a talking partner. In our practice, it is common for a teen to say that her parents or school counselors want her to go to counseling because she is “broken” or “messed up”. Our first step is to help her see that counseling is for people who want to take some time to sort through things and to talk about things that she is not comfortable talking about elsewhere. For teens, having someone other than their parents and peers to talk to, can be a relief. It is important for your teen to have a mature talking partner as well good communication lines with you.
She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. Proverbs 32:25
Cheryl Gowin and Dennis Gowin, Hope for Tomorrow Counseling Center. Contact us with your feedback, comments, issues, or questions at 434-808-2637.