In a recent Instagram poll, I asked this question: “Are you feeling stressed and anxious—now, more than ever”? 97% of teen respondents said, “YES”!
Am I surprised? No way. Am I curious what a teen girl’s world is like now that everything has changed? You bet.
I decided to ask more specific questions. To start, I queried about their body signs of stress.
They told me they are experiencing more headaches, stomachaches, tears, insomnia, and lethargy. I then asked about how they are coping. Most told me they are turning to their screens and some said they were trying to get outside more and be more active. Finally, I asked about what was causing the most stress. Girls told me their top three stressors: friendships (as in, not getting enough time to hang out and have fun), school (as in, how difficult it is to teach herself and stay engaged on Zoom or teams calls), and the future (as in, when will life get “back to normal” and what is summer and life going to be like).
At Bold New Girls, I have noticed a radical shift this year in girls’ energy (they are constantly fatigued), their enthusiasm (they really isn’t any), their moods (they are often sensitive at best, cantankerous at worst), and their mindsets (they are unable to hold a positive attitude about what’s working for them or going well).
Teen girls get my utmost empathy and compassion. Life is just tough right now. And, so are they! Your daughter is similarly struggling like these pollsters and she can become resilient by going through the tough stuff. Here are four ways you can help her with her mental health right now:
1. Look at her context. See her story and what’s been happening for her—at school, with her friends, and online. You may want to try asking more creative questions like, “I’d love to hear about your day today or how you are connecting online and in-person.” This helps you understand the “whole girl.”
2. Let her talk. Give her your undivided attention (putting down your phone and to-do list), the safe emotional space (assuring her this is her time to share, not yours), and the time to tell you what’s really on her mind (where neither of you watches the clock). This helps her unburden her concerns.
3. Listen. Don’t interrupt, interject, add on, problem solve, or minimize anything she says. Your job is to really hear her—both her words and the feelings behind her words—and “get” her in perhaps a new way. This helps her feel accepted.
4. Start as many sentences as you can with “Let’s try…” Suggest what you can do together to cultivate her healthy and positive mindset. You could try a relaxing activity together such as stretching, yoga, or meditation. You could also plan a new activity or a little adventure that could offer you both a change of routine and scenery. This helps her feel she is not alone—you are right there with her—and you are on her side.
In the next Instagram poll, I am going to ask this question: “Are you getting the support you need and feeling more balanced!” I can’t wait to see improved results.
For more help raising teenage girls, check out Growing Strong Girls: Practical Tools to Cultivate Connection in the Preteen Years and Rooted, Resilient, and Ready.