What good are emotions in teen girls?
Are you chuckling at this question? Can you even imagine that there is a anything positive about the emotions of teen girls?
It is vital that girls understand and learn that emotions are actually a good thing and that they are capable of learning how to manage them, even if they are highly sensitive to them. Unfortunately we don't get a lot of education in this area and what typically happens is that we just repeat the patterns in our family.
If you are reading this then you are wanting things to be different for your daughter and that is a great thing! Many people don't realize that one of the major complaints of employers of millennials is their inability to regulate emotions on the job. I spoke to employer recently who has owned businesses for many years and he stated that he feels like he is constantly in counseling sessions with his employees.
This is a problem, but one that can be changed. The earlier girls can learn skills to help them understand and manage emotion the better their relationships in the future will be as well as their ability to be professional in the work-place.
In working with girls, I spend a lot of time educating them on the value and importance of their emotions. Many are TERRIFIED of their feelings. They are confused, overwhelmed and frustrated. Often, they just don't get it and frankly don't want to... until they see that life isn't going so well.
Here are 3 principles about emotions that can help you facilitate discussion when you see her struggling.
EMOTIONS GIVE US INFORMATION
First, it is important to know that everyone is designed to feel emotions... everyone. She is not a freak because she feels... she is human. She may believe she is a freak because the emotions are new or intense. She needs to feel them.
Emotions are like signals. They communicate that something is happening. They may be warning us to pay attention. They help us filter information. Here is the BIG problem though...
Feelings are not facts.
Just because she feels it, doesn't mean it is true.
This makes it complicated. She may FEEL she is in danger, but it doesn't mean she is. For example. If she gets a B on a test and reacts with fear and panic. She may truly feel those emotions and feel she is in some sort of danger (the panic response) but the facts are she is not in danger. "Just because you feel it, doesn't make it true" is literally a mantra in my office!
Feelings are part of life and important but they should not be how we live life. Living by feelings guarantees a mess, especially in relationships. Living by emotions is all about reaction. We want her to learn how to respond. Responding requires control and an accurate assessment of what is happening. The feelings are just the indicator that there might be an issue.
EMOTIONS COMMUNICATE TO & INFLUENCE OTHERS
Most girls truly have no clue that their emotions are affecting you. They are so self-focused (which is pretty normal for a teen girl) that they do not recognize that their emotional reactions are actually affecting and influencing others. You have to intentionally work through this concept with them as their brain is still piecing these things together.
They are also quite clueless about body language and facial expression except when it comes to the eye roll... they totally know you hate that... and they do it anyway.
Extra tip... as hard as it is, limit your reactions to their eye rolls. Your reactions feed into it. Sometimes it's the only way they know how to assert themselves in the moment. Constant fighting about it only makes it worse. Beware of letting the eye-rolling take you off course from what really matters in whatever discussion you are having. Make sure they are allowed to speak about their opinions and beliefs. It will mean less eye-rolling.
Help them recognize the body language in others and talk to them about how that language influences them. Lots of time they have no idea that arms folded is a sign of being closed off.
Girls who are struggling socially are often very confused with the body language of others. Because of their own hyper-insecurity, they misread/mislabel other peoples body language, tone and even words. They are already operating from an uncomfortable emotional state ("I'm so awkward" thinking generates a lot of anxiety) so they assume others view them negatively.
EMOTIONS MOTIVATE US
Some of our emotions are biologically hardwired to cause an urge within us. This is especially true with fear and our fight or flight response. If we bump into a wasp nest we want the urge to flee out of danger to rise up and take over!
Emotions always affect behavior. As she learns to respond not react, she can learn to use her emotions to motivate her in very positive ways. If she becomes angry at the horrors of sex-trafficking, she can use that anger to affect change by getting a certain degree, starting a non-profit, selling a product to raise money, etc... These are examples of channeling emotion in a way that is very motivating.
I've talked to girls over the years about channeling the emotions about their lives to motivate them to stay in school, get a job and become independent instead of self-destruct.
The cool thing about emotional intelligence (EQ) is that she can truly make changes. It's not like IQ which tends to be more fixed. EQ can be worked on. You want her to have a strong EQ. It is fundamental to her well-being now, but especially as and adult. As you probably know, it's MUCH more difficult to make these changes as we get older.
We will start getting into more specifics about emotional regulation, what that looks like and how you can help her.