-- Teenage girls face pressure today like never before in a world of social media and high expectations set by themselves, their friends and the influencers they see on both big and small screens.
“Good Morning America” is taking a look into the “supergirl” pressure faced by girls and the high levels of stress they experience as a result.
Rachel Simmons is an author and educator whose New York Times-bestselling book “Odd Girl Out” shared advice on how over-stressed teen girls can become resilient adults.
Simmons’ new book, “Enough As She Is: How to Help Girls Move Beyond Impossible Standards of Success to Live Happy, Healthy, and Fulfilling Lives,” is another call to action for parents and teen girls.
Simmons shares her tips here for parents who want to help their daughters find balance.
1. Empathize with your teen and tell her that stress is normal – and not her fault. This will help her feel less alone and more connected to you as her parent. Remind her this is a very tough time to be a teenager. Avoid telling her she’s putting too much pressure on herself, but instead let her know you understand she’s under pressure, and you sympathize.
2. Cultivate gratitude. Help her appreciate who she is and what she has right now -- as an alternative to constantly wishing she was or had more. Every day, at breakfast or on the way to school, share 3 things you’re grateful for. This will help her feel better about who she is and what she has, and help shield her from the sense that she’s not enough as she is.
3. Model self-kindness when something goes wrong, so she’ll learn how to be less self-critical when she makes a mistake. When you lose your keys, don’t say, “I’m such an idiot.” Model self-kindness by saying, “Okay, this is stressful, and I might be late, but it’s not the end of the world. I’m doing the best that I can.”
4. Keep your own anxiety in check! Even if it seems like they aren’t, our teens are watching us carefully to see how we react to their stress – just like they did when they were learning to walk. Remember how they fell down, then looked at us to see if it was okay? If we got upset, they freaked out. If we brushed them off and told them not to give up, they kept going. The same is true now: we have to manage our own anxiety so it doesn’t add to theirs. One way to do this is when you feel anxious, ask yourself this: what decision would I make as a parent if I knew everything would be okay in the end? When we parent out of anxiety, we almost always make choices we regret.
5. Tell your daughter about your mistakes and failures. Girls are under so much pressure to be perfect, and they need more of us to be real about our flaws. Tell your daughter about a screw up you learned from, or a setback that made you stronger or wiser. Girls need work in progress role models, not “perfect” role models!
6. Model body acceptance. Avoid engaging in “fat talk” – negative comments about your body, what you’ve eaten, or how little you’ve exercised. Don’t criticize your daughter’s body -- when you call attention to her body in a negative way, even to be helpful, she will almost always hear it as failing to live up to what a girl should look like, and what you expect of her. Instead, she needs you to remind her she is more than a number—more than her weight, jeans size, and BMI; more than how many calories she’s eaten today or how many times she worked out. What do you love about her that has nothing to do with how she looks?
7. Tell her about imposter phenomenon, the fear (often secretly held) that we are frauds who don’t belong where we are. Remind her that everyone feels like they don’t belong sometimes, but that doesn’t mean the feelings are true! If she feels like an imposter, ask her what evidence she has that it’s true. She’ll quickly discover that her belief is just a fear. Then, ask her for evidence against her fear, and talk about all the ways she does belong.
8. When she’s upset, ask her if she wants advice, or just to vent. Sometimes all teens need is just to be heard. They want to know you take their stress seriously. Parents understandably think their job is to give advice, but that’s not often what a teen wants. If she says she wants to vent, sit on your hands and just listen!
9. Remind her why she is enough as she is. Apart from her grades, social media likes or other external signs of success, tell your daughter why she is enough right now. Is it because she is kind, or patient, or a loving granddaughter? When girls know why they matter inside, they become more resilient in the face of stress.