What We Know:
- Teen girls are more likely to feel distressed than teen boys
- Challenging areas for teen girls: dating and sexuality, body image and eating disorders, self-esteem, achievement, anxiety and depression, peer relationships, self-harm, and suicidality
- Feeling disconnected from society, family, peers, school, and community plays a significant factor in the development of these challenging areas.
- Teen girls often disconnect from themselves - who they are and what they know - in order to fit in and find themselves in relation to their peers.
- It's developmentally appropriate for teens to pull away from their parents and develop their identity in the context of their relationship with others
- However, this becomes problematic when girls silence their voices or their knowledge of their opinions, feelings, and desires in order to stay connected to peer relationships - "do I remain true to myself and risk fitting in? Or do I lose myself and maintain my relationships?"
What We Can Do:
- Research suggests that "a resonant relationship with a woman, meaning a relationship in which a girl can speak freely and hear her voice clearly resounded as a voice worth listening to and taking seriously - a voice that engages the heart and mind of another and calls forth response - was associated with psychological health and development" (Gilligan, 1990).
- In other words, healthy connections to others equals psychological health!
- Critically challenging society's messages to women is imperative, since culture largely contributes to the idea that girls must either be themselves OR be connected to peers.
- Girls should learn that they can be themselves AND be connected to peers.
- Important questions to consider - not just Who Am I? But... Who am I when I'm with my peers? Who am I when I'm with my family? With my friends? When I'm alone? etc...
How To Help Your Daughter:
- Provide opportunities for healthy connections. Encourage your daughter to join groups that have positive female role models and provide a safe space for your daughter to be herself and be heard.
- Encourage your daughter's sense of self. Find out what she likes and dislikes and who she is in different environments.
- Encourage her opinions. You might not always like them, but encouraging them anyway will teach her that she has a voice, and that it matters.
- It is never too early! Even if your daughter is not yet a teen, get these strategies in place before she starts pulling away and struggling.
*Explore girls groups for ages 5-18 as a way to help your daughter find and build healthy connections in a safe space to be herself.
Could your daughter benefit from positive and healthy connections?
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