By Christine Carter
As if middle school weren’t hard enough, high school is a whole new level of pressure for our teen girls. Many of the same issues they battle in fifth through eighth grade carry on into high school with even more gravity.
High school is the bridge that leads to adulthood. Our teen girls are overwhelmed with the pressure not only to look good but to gain the approval of others. They also face a myriad of challenges to prepare for college and a future career.
High School Girls
Here are just a few of their worries.
Looking Good. The most prominent area of concern for our high school girls is their appearance. They worry about how they look all. the. time. High school teens often struggle to feel secure in their skin. So they spend much of their time and energy trying to look their best. Teen girls focus on every detail of their appearance, including hair, makeup, accessories, fashion, and most importantly, their figure. They are always comparing themselves to other girls their age and trying to keep up with the fashion trends that dictate what is acceptable. Sadly, this can become a consuming and discouraging endeavor for many teen girls because they are incredibly critical of their appearance. These young women’s self-esteem is conditional on how they feel about their looks, and their weight can become an obsession for many, sometimes resulting in severe eating disorders.
Friendships. It’s a well-known fact that peer relationships are a priority for our teens. If our girls aren’t spending time on their appearance, then you will most likely find them on their phones connecting virtually with their friends on social media or planning meet-ups. They worry about the number of friends they have, who can be trusted, and if they belong to the right social circle. Our teen girls feel the need to be in constant contact with their peers for fear of ‘missing out’ or even worse, excluded. It’s an ongoing priority for them to feel that their peers accept and like them.
As with their appearance, their emotional security and self-esteem often correlate to the success of their peer relationships. High school social circles may be a bit more mature than middle school. But there are still damaging behaviors that occur that can sever friendships. This can unravel a teen’s self-worth.
Performance. Teen girls constantly scrutinize everything they do in every area of their lives. They are their worst critic and put overwhelming pressure on meeting expectations. They will worry about how they are performing with anything they are involved in, whether that is their academics, athletics, extracurricular activities, employment, volunteer work, or social events. High school girls worry about how they can improve, and they will frequently set unrealistic expectations on themselves that are difficult to meet. Many of our teen girls feel relentless pressure to be the best. When they don’t measure up to the extreme demands they place on themselves, they may suffer the consequences of self-fulfilling prophesies, discouragement, and feelings of failure.
Parental Approval. High school girls worry about the opinions of their parents. Although some teens may pretend like they don’t care about what their parents think, deep down, they are deeply concerned about gaining their mom and dad’s approval. Young women feel an intrinsic need to be loved and accepted by their parents. And they worry about letting them down, or worse, failing them. For some teen girls, the excessive criticisms and demands of their parents cause them to crumble. They tune in to every word parents say and are sensitive to how their parents respond to everything they do. Nearly every teen girl secretly wants to please their parents and make them proud.
A Balancing Act
The Future. While teen girls may seem superficial at times, they are also concerned about their future plans, such as college, career choices, and starting a family. High school has evolved into a high stakes landscape. Every decision they make can have an impact on their future.
Our teen daughters are well aware of the demands that are placed on this season of their lives. They worry about getting accepted into college, choosing the right major, gaining the best internship—and also how to pay for it all. They understand the high expectations, the extensive competition, and the limitations they must manage. It is a constant balancing act.
It’s no wonder teen girls worry so much. Their mindset is impacted by society’s values and the incessant pressure of their peers. They are influenced by high academic standards, future goals, and the internal need for approval and belonging.
It’s tough to be a high school teen girl these days.
Parents need to tune into their needs, their insecurities, and their worries, and encourage them with assurance, affirmation, and acceptance.
Let’s help our growing girls develop self-worth and confidence in who they are and all they can be.
Christine Carter writes at TheMomCafe.com, where she hopes to encourage mothers everywhere through her humor, inspiration, and faith. She is the author of “Help and Hope While You’re Healing: A woman’s guide toward wellness while recovering from injury, surgery, or illness.” Find her on Facebook or on Twitter@TheMomCafe.