It’s not hard to look around and know teenagers are experiencing a different world than we had growing up. They are the first generation who can’t ask older mentors how to navigate this world of social media and overexposure to everything and anything. The only people that may have a proper understanding of what teens are experiencing are their peers. In a world of filters, likes, and online “connection,” it feels insurmountable for some teenagers to be vulnerable and open about their feelings and problems. Finding emotional support for teen girls can be difficult, at best.
Common Ground Creates Emotional Support
This was never more apparent than at summer camp a few years ago. I was a leader for a handful of teen girls. I had my very own Breakfast Club: the religious leader’s daughter, the band nerd, the girl from the group home, the athlete, and the introverted academic scholar. Each of them had pulled me aside and talked to me about some deep sadness, anxiety, and hurt they were experiencing. They were all experiencing similar things and feelings, but none were talking to each other. I asked a few other leaders if they had the same experience with their girls. The answer was a resounding yes. So, we devised a plan.
We gathered our three groups of teen girls and packed them into the largest cabin we could find. We gave each of them a piece of paper and a pen with these simple instructions: Write down the things you think and say to yourself that aren’t kind. Next we had each girl crumple their papers and place them in a big pile in the middle of the group. We then asked them to pick a different paper and read it quietly. At first the girls’ eyes were wide, looking around at each other as if they had been unmasked. After a few rounds of reading other’s writings, nearly every girl was teary. As we processed the tears, the same sentiment was repeated, “ I had no idea you all felt the way I did.” “ You seem so put together. How is it you feel the same as me?”
A Safe Place for Teen Girls to Share
This experience was the exact moment I knew that teen girls need a safe place to learn how to be vulnerable, seen, and supported. The statistics are staggering to support the overwhelming need for this. These statistics are an oversimplification of complicated research for understanding but go with me on this:
- In a group of ten girls, at least two have severe mental health conditions. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020)
- In that same group of ten girls, about two have sent sexts and three have received them. (Buren, J., Holmqvist Gattario, K., & Lunde, C., 2021)
- Seven to eight of those ten girls are so dissatisfied with their body image they have engaged in weight control behaviors, including skipping meals. (Ganesan S, Ravishankar SL, Ramalingam S, 2018)
- Seven to eight of those girls say depression and anxiety are huge issues.
- Three of them wish they had “any friends” or “more good friends”.
- About three of those ten girls have engaged in, or are still engaged in, self-harm. (CDC, 2020)
Think about the teen girls you know. They likely have some hurt they carry, masking it with filters and much more harmful things often. My deepest hope and desire is to facilitate authentic connections and vulnerable moments that may be the pathway to healing for these girls and your girls.
Emotional Support through Connection
Family Strategies is pleased to offer Girls Life; a group to help create connection and emotional support for teen girls as they work through the challenging issues they face. For more information on Girls Life, click here. As Helen Keller once said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”
Intern therapist Steph Twitchell brings years of experience with adolescent girls to the Family Strategies team and to our Girls Life group. For more information on Steph, click here.
Buren, J., Holmqvist Gattario, K., & Lunde, C. (2021). What Do Peers Think About Sexting? Adolescents’ Views of the Norms Guiding Sexting Behavior. JOURNAL OF ADOLESCENT RESEARCH. https://doi-org.lopes.idm.oclc.org/10.1177/07435584211014837
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020
Teens See Depression and Anxiety as the Biggest Problem Among Their Peers; A new study from the Pew Research Center shows 70 percent of teens see depression and anxiety as a major problem among their peers. (2019, February 21). Miller-McCune.Com.