Teenage girls are struggling. Recently, the CDC’s chief medical officer said teenage girls are “engulfed in a growing wave of sadness, violence, and trauma.”
The agency released a report showing that 57% of teenage girls felt “persistently sad or hopeless” in 2021. That’s almost twice what was reported by teenage boys.1
I love teen girls and this breaks my heart. What is our opportunity here to engage the teen women you know through relationship, it’s where all the good stuff happens.
We have the opportunity to communicate value, connection, healing. After a decade of fostering teenage girls and raising a half dozen of my own, here are my principles for loving and raising teen girls.
Since they are getting mixed messages from the world, be consistent.
The world is telling them they can be whoever they want to be, while at the same time, trying to make them into something they may not be.
Be more concerned about being honest, than relevant or impressive. Be authentic, and still kind. Be the place they know they can go when they want to hear the truth without bias.
They learn how to be a friend by watching us interact with our peers.
Children are a very important part of our world, but they are not our whole world. They need to see us take a call in another room, prioritize friendships, and exchange ideas and life with other adults. We want them to have a support system their whole life, so let’s model how to do it well.
They need to see us struggle/fail/ask for help.
Social media has brought some good into the world, but the filter phenomenon is not one of them. It’s given the false impression everyone else is killing it, while you, who are scrolling, could only hope to be that beautiful/successful/happy.
Girls need to see when and how and who we rely on, and modeling our need when it arises. Strength isn’t doing it all perfectly and on our own. Strength is knowing what resources are available and using them.
We play a huge role in their emotional security and health by listening to them.
Good, smart, brain researchers have reported widely on the emotional and relational benefits of being heard by someone who has given us their full attention.
When we listen well, we leave them with the impression they are worth it, they are connected to someone, and they are seen. Is there any better way to send those all-important messages?
They want stories more than stuff.
It might seem like shopping or gifts buy us some relational equity, but it’s the shared experiences that accelerate connection.
So, buy those concert tickets, train for the 5K together, learn how to bake off YouTube, take the vacation; these will be the memories they pull from when life withdrawals from them.
They are practicing how to express themselves, give them room for it.
They might disagree with you politically or spiritually. They might overreact or speak passionately about a topic they are just figuring out. Don’t squelch their passion.
Listen, agree to learn more together, affirm their thinking process, even if you don’t like their conclusions. We don’t want an apathetic generation – we want one on fire for something.
So, listen, be open, engage in healthy discussions, resource them with good content, and let the pre-adult conversations begin.
Don’t take things personally.
Not their comments or eye rolls, because they are figuring out who they are and bouncing their thoughts and feelings off of you is one way they can test and discover themselves.
Remind yourself liberally of the privilege it is to eyewitness their greatness developing and that your self-worth is not determined by whether they are excited to be with you or not.
This is the season when they learn how to interact with men.
They will spend this season learning all over again about the opposite sex. They will draw conclusions based on bad boyfriends or movies, or teachers, or Taylor Swift songs. They will date, or not, they will pose, or will resist posing – they are on a journey.
Share what you’ve learned. Point out the uniqueness between our genders, celebrate what men are and we aren’t, celebrate what we are and men aren’t. Listen to their frustrations and applaud their learnings. This will be a lifelong ride and these first steps count.
Teach them the biblical story and its principles, rather than just verses.
They need to know when someone tells them something if it “sounds” right or not.
We have a chance to imprint them with our world view, they may later reject it, but it’s our chance to record our voices in their head with the truth we have come to believe.
Bible stories are good, knowing Jesus is better. Share where and how Jesus has met you. There are many more where this came from, mostly learned from cautionary tales and deep conviction.
None of us are parenting perfectly, but if we keep our eyes on Jesus and stay present, then we can help turn those statistics around and grow up the world changers we know the young women in our lives are destined to be!