Raising Teen Girls
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Insights into the mental health and well-being of teen girls...

6 barriers to her emotional health

It's 4pm on Thursday. Sarah literally screams at her mom after mom asks about her study plans for the evening.  Then Sarah slams her door and cries. Sarah has an AP exam tomorrow.  Sarah has not slept much this week, maybe 4 hours each night.  She hates eating at school and missed breakfast this AM so she hasn't eaten since dinner last night. Last week she missed 2 days because of her sinuses acting up and is still dealing with them.  Mom is confused and angry at Sarah's response to a simple question.

There is a lot happening here.  The question might have seemed simple and not a big deal but what is at play and most likely at play in your home on a regular basis are barriers to emotional health

We all struggle with them.

But teen girls are even more susceptible because they are dealing with emotional growth and brain changes.  It's bad enough for her that under the surface massive changes are taking place.  Add some emotional health barriers and you have a recipe for conflict and chaos. 

6 Barriers to Emotional Health

Many factors can throw off emotions but the following 6 are guaranteed to cause problems.  If even one of these are happening EXPECT her to be more vulnerable to her emotions (this goes for adults too.  We just have a better control system in place to help us).  If multiple are at play, and typically there are more then one in the teen years, her emotions could go nuclear.

Drug or Alcohol Use - they don't call them mood-altering substances for no reason!  Girls who engage in the regular use of substances are altering their moods and the result is generally substantial irritability and moodiness.  If you are seeing an increase in irritability and moodiness you might be dealing with substance abuse problems.  These are early warning signs.

Poor Nutrition, Over-eating or Under-eating - food is fuel for our bodies.  Girls need solid nutrition and to eat at regular intervals to keep blood sugars leveled and to provide their bodies the fuel to keep up with daily tasks.  When they lack it they will be cranky.

Sedentary Lifestyle - if she is sitting or sleeping a lot, this can fuel depression.  Being active and having consistent movement/exercise leads to more regulated emotions.  Teen girls have a lot of pent up emotion and tension and need to have a physical outlet.  The more they lay around, the worse they will feel.

Physical Illness - if she is currently sick, in pain or recovering from illness, expect her emotions to be fragile.  It is more difficult for her to control emotions in this state.  Beware of trying to have any serious discussions at these times.  Her reaction might be more intense then if she was feeling better.

Lack of Sleep - most teen girls are sleep deprived which is a serious concern.  Ideal is 9 hours but I have rarely met a teen girl who gets this much.  Many are running on 5-6 hours.  They are already stressed out and lack of sleep just compounds the problem.  If she hasn't been sleeping well, sometimes a good nap or an early night is just what she needs to regulate her emotions.

Self-Harming Behaviors - self-harming behaviors by definition are a negative way to cope with intense emotions.  Girls who engage in these behaviors are already experiencing distress.  If she has a pattern of using these behaviors to cope, expect her emotions to be sensitive. 

It can be difficult enough dealing with emotions as a teen girl.  You can help her by being on the lookout for any of these barriers.  Teach her about them so she can identify when she may be headed into trouble.  By helping her you are increasing her emotional intelligence so she can learn to better regulate her emotions, ultimately improving her relationships with others.