High school girls have some unique needs and concerns as covid-19 has upended their world. I recently ran an online group for 9 adolescent girls and I have had many counseling sessions online with girls in the past few weeks as well. This blog will give parents some insight into what their daughters are going through and suggestions for how to best support them.
There are several issues that are causing teen girls stress. They aren’t used to not seeing their friends, and many expressed feeling disconnected despite spending a lot of time on social media. My group related that their families were a mixed bag: they enjoyed more time eating meals and playing board games. Yet most of them were already feeling a bit smothered, complaining that it was hard to get alone time. Many high school girls love getting in their cars and riding around to clear their heads, but some of their parents aren’t letting them out of the house. Several girls shared that they were turning into angry people who snapped at family members who didn’t deserve it.
Another stressor is living with parents who are stressed and worried. Several girls have family members in and out of state who are ill, and they related that their parent sometimes takes their stress out on them. A few teens told me that they get overwhelmed from having moms who vent about their own worries. Some girls are anxious about family members who are vulnerable because of preexisting illnesses like lupus and cancer or who reside in assisted living facilities.
Some of the girls like being able to set their own school schedule and believe they are being more productive. Others are having a hard time creating their own routines, especially with schoolwork. Many complained that when they are confused about online schoolwork, it takes a while for teachers to respond to their questions and they end up feeling stuck and behind. Many shared that they feel disconnected, weird, and have a hard time falling asleep because of the stress of the crisis and knowing that the next day is going to bring the same thing. Most of the teens were distracting themselves with their phones as it was the only connection they had with their friends.
On the positive side, many of the girls were finding healthy ways to take care of themselves. Several girls were spending more time with siblings. Some of their families were enjoying game nights together. The family of one girl had different themed dinners every night: high school musical and 4th of July were two recent events. One family was playing a different board or card game each evening. Several teens described doing regular self-care: hot baths, doing their nails, dyeing their hair, painting, writing stories, journaling, taking walks alone or with family members, running, spending time outdoors.
Having a hard time adjusting to online school makes sense to me. Many 18-year-olds have a tough first semester of college because it takes a while to figure out a less structured school routine that requires more self-study. If your daughter complains about how hard her new school requirements are, I’d listen, commiserate, and then do some problem-solving with her.
High school seniors are awakening to the reality that they may lose out on prom, senior banquets, and maybe even graduation. Be sure get in their shoes and see this issue from their perspective and empathize with their losses.
Encourage your daughter to think about hobbies or interests they’ve had in the past but were too busy to pursue. This is an ideal time to take up photography, painting, yoga, sewing, playing guitar, or any other passion. Doing things you choose and that bring fulfillment is a great preventative medicine for depression and anxiety.
Perhaps most importantly, spend time as a family cooking meals, playing cards, taking long walks, watching movies, or brainstorming ways to be of service to others. One family made some paintings and took them to a retirement village and posted them in the windows of the dining hall. Another family I read about made homemade masks for area hospitals, and this was spearheaded by a 15-year-old freshman who was inspired to make a difference. Loosen up the time your daughter is allowed on her phone and social media because she needs to stay connected and close with her friends. Your high schooler is NOT too old for tuck-ins every night. Create as much one-on-one time as you can while at the same time respecting her need for space. Hopefully families will come out of this crisis feeling more close and resilient.
Want to learn more about raising strong leaders? Dr. Jordan’s new book: She Leads: A Practical Guide for Raising Girls Who Advocate, Influence, and Leads is here! Look for it in bookstores, Amazon, and any other place books are sold