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

It's her SR year of high school and she is already feeling the pressure

It’s her SR year of high school and that means anxiety will start to creep into her everyday life.  Like a gas burner on a stove, that flame has been cranked up a notch and at some point the water in the pot is going to boil. 

Last year at this time she worried about her grades and that fact that she only had a year left before she would be a SR.  This year there are a whole set of new worries.  Many girls begin to get overwhelmed and are already focused on their fall semester of college before they even start their SR year. 

I spend a lot of time helping girls stay in the present moment.  Too much focus on college before their SR even starts leads to a lot of unnecessary worry and stress.  It’s very difficult for them to not let their minds go wandering off to the future.  There is pressure from family, friends and especially school.

Here are some of the common worries she is dealing with going into her SR year…

College Prep

This is obvious because in her mind, she has been preparing for graduation for 12 years.  That is overwhelming to her.  She can’t imagine what is coming next.  It’s not uncommon for girls to resist it by acting out, doing poor in school and using a lot of procrastination and avoidance.

If she hasn’t taken the SAT or ACT yet she is stressed because she feels behind.  Her friend conversations are dominated by college application discussions. If she needs to raise the score she is getting very nervous about the upcoming exam and what it means to the admission process.

Sometimes she just wants you to make the college decision for her but that is a mistake!  She needs to make this decision for herself.  It’s her life and she has to live with the consequences of her decision.  It’s too easy to blame you if she ends up hating it.  Encourage and support but don’t do the work for her.  She needs to answer the questions and fill out the forms. 

If she drops the ball and doesn’t do it then maybe that is a sign she is not ready (emotionally) to handle going to college after graduation.  This is difficult for parents to accept but there are some girls who might need more time to mature before stepping into college. 

If she is a high achiever there is a lot of pressure to get into certain schools and her friends will fuel the competition.  High achievers will push themselves at a greater level, especially at the beginning of the year.  Class rankings are out and the fight for the top spots begins. 

How am I going to pay for college is a big worry.  Even if you are paying for it she is worried about the financial burden.  Applying for scholarships is overwhelming and she is already starting to think about this and how much she might be able to earn.  She realizes that her school of choice might be totally dependent on obtaining scholarships so her stress is going to increase. 

Alternative College Plans

The reality is that there are many girls that are not interested in going to college either right after high school or at all.  If she is in this group she is feeling very stressed about what her alternative options might be.

She is considering a skill or trade like culinary, ministry, cosmetology, medical, etc… There is stress about choosing which one.  She doesn’t have the same pressures that applying to college might have but she still has to do the investigation and application process and that can be scary.  Again, don’t do it for her.  Support and encourage but make her do the work.

Some girls just plan to work but do not have a job or have never had a job.  SR year is great time to start working so that she will have experience even if it is very part time.

She will still feel a lot of pressure from her peers about her decision.  Continue to encourage her strengths and create a vision for the future.  She doesn’t need to overly focus on the future but it is great to know what she is working towards.

I often recommend to girls who are unsure about life after high school to get a job and take 1-2 classes at a local college to see what they think about college.  It moves them forward slowly and it won’t be as expensive should she have to drop the class.

Dating

If she is in a serious dating relationship she is worried about a break-up.  Many relationships end during SR year and she knows that.  She watched the seniors self-destruct last year and now she is scared.

If there is a chance the relationship can make it, she is already worried about making it work in college.  Her mind is hyper-focused on the what-ifs. 

If she has never dated she might be worried about graduating high school without having dated.  She may be worried about trying to find someone to date SR year just so she can say she did.  Believe it or not they do worry about this.  They fear they won’t be prepared for college dating if they never dated in high school. 

Friends

Often girls begin to get sad about leaving their friends at the end of the year and as a result they begin to fret about it.  Friendship break-ups SR year are a thing.  It’s not uncommon for a big blow-up in a friendship group.  Girls will start to pull away from each other or sabotage the friendship to protect themselves from the pain of saying good-bye.  Again, she watched this happen to the SRs last year and knows it could be coming so her anxiety starts to increase.

Family

If there are family problems, especially marriage concerns she begins to worry about how her parents will function when she is gone.  She worries about divorce.  She wants to create her own life but when there is conflict at home she worries her SR year about change and how it will impact the family. 

If her parents are single she worries about leaving mom or dad.  She is already thinking about how her leaving will impact you.  She is worried you will be too lonely or sad. 

She is also thinking about how she will be interacting with you this year.  Independence is an intense desire and she is beginning to wonder and worry about how much freedom you will give her.  Will her curfew change?  Will you let her go more places?  Will you let her drive on the Interstate? These are just some of the thoughts on her mind, especially what kind of flexibility you will give her.

Senior year can be such an exciting time but with all the pressure she faces it is easy for her to miss the good things that are happening in the present moment.  It's important to give her time to vent these concerns without trying to fix them.  Even if you have assured her, she may still be thinking about it.  Often she just needs to know it is very normal to be worried because she truly believes all her friends have it together and are not freaking out... but they are! :)