RAISING A CONFIDENT DAUGHTER IN TODAY’S WORLD

According to researchers this is the unhappiest, loneliest and most stressed out generation on record — and its girls who are struggling the most. By adolescence girls are twice as likely as boys to develop a mood disorder. Depressive symptoms in teen girls increased by 50% between 2012 and 2015, at more than twice the rate of boys. The results of one study in 2017 showed the number of girls who described themselves as “confident” declines more than 25% throughout middle school.

Despite girls excelling academically, they still don’t believe they are smart enough. 30% of girls with the highest grade point averages don’t believe they are intelligent enough to get into a good college.

WHY IS THERE SUCH A DISPARITY?

We know from looking at brain scans that there are differences in the way girls and boys process emotional stimuli. Girls mature, in terms of their emotional recognition, faster than boys—and that sensitivity could make them more vulnerable to depression, anxiety, and social acceptance.

WE KNOW THAT THE WORLD IS COMPLICATED FOR GIRLS

Fitting in, body image, pressure, academics, friendships and relationships are all challenging to navigate. Add to this, the potential challenges of technology and social media, and it is not surprising that girls are reporting high levels of pressure alongside declining levels of self-confidence. Girls

For too many girls today, motivation to be successful is fueled by intense self-criticism and fear that they will fail. Our girls may look exceptional on paper but they are often anxious and overwhelmed in life. Many feel that no matter how hard they try, they will never be smart enough, successful enough, pretty enough, thin enough, well liked enough, etc.  And it starts young.

AVOID FAT TALK

Between 40% and 60% of elementary school girls monitor their weight. This is partially responsible for the gender disparity of depression.

Many parents believe that their girls in elementary school are too young to have body image issues. Nope. Body acceptance starts early. Kids are sponges and absorb everything around them. Your daughters are influenced by media and by family socialization, this can begin as early as preschool.

Monitor your “Fat Talk” at home. negative comments about your body, how much you’ve eaten or exercised, or comments about others’ bodies. This is body bashing, a kind of ritual self-hatred girls begin practicing early, and many of them learn it from adult women.

Focus your body comments on the ways her body serves her, not others. When your daughter achieves a physical goal, point out how her strong or agile body helped her do it. Talk about eating to be healthy so we can do the things we love with our bodies.

PRAISE THE PROCESS NOT THE RESULT

Well intended efforts to praise your daughter can often backfire. As a parent when you focus on the result this can be heard by your daughter as pressure or an expectation. For example, one study showed that praising intelligence could undermine a child’s confidence.  Two groups of fifth graders received two different kinds of praise after taking an IQ test. Kids in one group were told, “Wow, that’s a good score. You must be really smart at this.” Kids in the other group were told, “Wow, that’s a good score. You must have worked really hard.”

Kids in both groups then had the opportunity to try a challenging task, with the promise they could learn from it. The kids in the “smart” group weren’t interested. The kids praised for their effort took it on. Not only that, the kids in the second group performed better over time, outpacing their “smart” peers on follow-up IQ tests. It appears that seeing intelligence as a fixed trait instills fear of failure that makes kids less able to handle setbacks.

DON’T BE A PERFECT PARENT

Role model messing up and making mistakes! Girls learn from media, adults, and peers to please others in order to remain likeable. The desire to please has a large impact on the loss of confidence for girls in the first place. Not surprisingly, many girls grow to fear failure. They think the more they succeed, the more liked they will be.

Whenever you can, show her that you can fail, mess up, make mistakes and still be okay; The world doesn’t end. Your worth didn’t change; your relationships didn’t change. The ability to handle disappointment and failure is the cornerstone for building confidence. She will learn from watching you.

USE SELF-COMPASSION NOT SELF-CRITISCM

This means that when you do make a mistake, feel bad, or embarrassed you role model saying “I feel really bad about this. It is okay to feel this way.” Rather than “I can’t believe this happened. I really messed up.”

Self-compassion is about being kinder to yourself when you are stressed or upset. Research shows that people who practice self-compassion have lower rates of depression and anxiety.

Next time you are running late and your daughter is with you rather than beating yourself up for being late try verbalizing kindness to yourself. Say out loud “I feel nervous because I am running late. It makes sense that I am late because I am busy and get behind. Lots of people run late. It won’t be the end of the world.”

Just remember to be in it for the long haul. Raising confident daughter’s is a process. Some days will seem easier than others. If your daughter needs help learning to fully accept herself, I am now enrolling for my fall Teen Girls Confidence Group. Contact Me  to apply.

HOW DBT HELPS TO INSTANTLY CALM STRONG EMOTIONS

Though everyone feels intense negative emotions, it is very common for teenagers to feel overwhelmed or stressed on a regular basis. UCLA researchers have reported that incoming freshman rates of feeling overwhelmed have increased from 18 percent in 1985 to 29 percent in 2010 and 41 percent in 2016.  A recent study in Psychological Medicine reported an increase in depression from 2005 to 2015 from 8.7 percent to 12.7 percent for teens 12- to 17-year-olds.

When your teen is overwhelmed it may be very hard for them to access and use their everyday coping skills and reminding them may lead to them feeling more frustrated. The reason being when we are in a state of extreme emotional arousal our brains aren’t functioning properly and we can’t process or access information. It is as if your teen is so overwhelmed by emotions their brain is on pause.

In order for your teen to get past their brain being on pause they need to “reset” it. According to Dr. Marsha Linehan, founder of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) there are some simple skills you can use to kick your parasympathetic nervous system into gear (PNS) which helps to relax us. This skill is referred to by the acronym TIP.

  • Temperature: If your teen changes their temperature it can help them refocus and reset. It helps them feel more grounded. Changing their temperature will instantly slow their nervous system down and help them to relax. They can try running cold water on their forehead or forearms, or back of their necks. Maybe chewing on some ice.
  • Intense Exercise: Always check with your physician before doing any new physical activities to ensure you avoid any injuries. Short, quick and intense bursts of exercise can jolt your teen’s system and help to ground your teen. Quick increases in heart rate help mind/body connect and your teen is better able to calm down. Try jumping jacks, burpees, a quick jog, etc.
  • Paced Breathing: Deep breathing is always a wonderful coping skill. Paced breathing is the opposite of the slow deep breaths you may be used to. In yoga we refer to it as “breath of fire” or “cleaning breath.” You take short breaths in and strong forceful breaths out at a quick pace. Use this for about 15-30 seconds and no longer as it may leave you feeling lightheaded.
  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation: The concept is to focus on one muscle group at a time tensing and releasing each group and notice the difference. You can repeat each muscle group four to six times. As you scan your body, tensing and releasing each muscle group the muscles loosen and relax. This skill can be very relaxing and help connect mind and body. If your teen is struggling to fall asleep this can be a great tool to use before bedtime to help them relax and fall asleep.

These skills will not necessarily stop your teen from feeling distress or discomfort. They can however learn to get through the crisis and whatever made them feel overwhelmed to begin with. Once the intensity has passed they will better be able to access their other DBT skills and begin to problem-solve the situation.

If your teen needs support with managing intense emotions DBT group help. Contact me here to learn more.

7 WAYS TO BUILD RESILIENCY IN YOUR TEEN

Working with teens I hear a lot of comparing and high expectations they put on themselves. One common things I hear from them is “other people don’t seem to be bothered by this” or “I should be able to handle this.” So why is it that some people seem to be able to handle stress and disappointment without missing a beat and others seem to be overwhelmed?

The answer is resiliency. When teens are resilient, they cope better during and after difficult situations. They ‘bounce back’ when things go wrong. Your teen needs resilience to navigate life’s challenge. All teens can build resilience.

Here are so are some things you can do to help your teen become more resilient:

  1. Spend quality time with your teen

We live in a world that is constantly busy with work and other distractions. Make planned time each week to spend with your time without distractions to listen to them.

  1. Foster your teen to be independent and learn to stand alone.

Let your teen become responsible for waking up, making lunch, etc. Let them suffer their own consequences if they don’t. Let them be responsible for their own homework. Help them without taking over. When they are in the real world you won’t play an active role it is important they start practicing now

  1. Allow your teen to make mistakes, or even FAIL, without trying to fix the situation or take away their pain.

Sounds crazy, I know. The hardest thing for a parent to do is see their child in pain. However, learning to fail and feel distress is an important skill. Failure is an inevitable part of life. We are all imperfect. If your teen forgets an assignment, don’t bring it to them. It will be better for them to learn the responsibility AND to learn that they are okay, they survived, their worth didn’t change. Experiencing mistakes and failure can actually increase self-esteem!

  1. Praise the effort your teen puts into school/sports/etc not the result.

Let your teen know how happy you are that they are studying so hard and practicing rather than the grade they got. This puts the focus on them and what they are doing. When we praise the grade we send the message that the grade is more important. For example, you can say “You have been so responsible studying for your test. I am happy to see all your hard work.”

  1. Nourish your teens interests outside of school.

More and more I hear of teens wanting to quit outside activities so they have more time to study. Academic pressures can become overwhelming. While goals to do well in school can be healthy they should not overshadow the rest of your life. Interests in sports, dance, music, art, scouts, etc help to foster independence, socialization, and more.

  1. Encourage your teen to communicate their needs directly.

Self-advocacy is a skill that can be gained through practice. Help your teen learn how to talk to teachers, administrators or even you. When they need help encourage them to talk to the person directly first. If you must meet with a teacher, include your teen in the conversation. You won’t be able to do this for them later in life.

  1. Know how to argue

Families that work well know how to argue. Family is where we learn how to resolve conflict. Reality is conflict happens. If we grow up in a home that is chaotic teens don’t learn to manage feelings. Children learn to resolve differences of opinions and disappointment is from watching their parents. Teach your teens that it is okay to disagree and how to disagree.

Your teen will inevitably be face challenges and have to learn to cope with them by themselves. Let your teen have a go at sorting out their problems and fighting their own battles before you step in. Fumbles and failures are part of the process.

If your teen is having difficulty coping with challenges or feeling independent there is hope. I’d love to connect and discuss the next best steps in helping your teen find happiness. Click here to schedule your parent screening.