In a study of girls in secondary schools, more than 55 per cent were assessed as anxious. What happens when teenagers are anxious? They second guess themselves and the relationships they have in their life. They start to withdraw. Frighteningly, from the person who loves them the most. The person who has their back and only wants the absolute best for them. That person is you. The worried parent.
You may have already seen your perfectly happy daughter turn into a conflict-ridden, anguished teenager.
Mood swings, irritability and feeling on edge indicates a teenager is feeling anxious. Add in fatigue and sleep disturbances with growth spurts, puberty and hormone upheaval and you have a recipe for one moody teenager.
Here’s what you can do to help your child and you:
1. Create opportunities for communication
Teenagers respond well and feel less pressure to communicate with parents when they’re busy and doing something. Find a task that both of you can work on either in silence or with a bit of light chat.
Do something like cook together. You’re both focused on an outcome that has nothing to do with the daily pressures of being a teenager (and a parent of one!). Keep the conversation light and focused on the task. Your teenager is busy using motor skills and her creativity, and will start to relax. When they are in relaxed mode, they are more likely to open up and mention challenges they are experiencing in their lives.
One lovely mum friend of mine would go on bike rides with her daughter. She recalls them having probably close to a dozen bike rides in total silence, just riding side by side or in single file on local bike tracks until eventually, she heard the Holy Grail sentence every parent trying to reach out to their teenager longs to hear; “Hey Mum, I’ve been having a bit of a hard time dealing with…..Can I talk to you about it?”
2. Managing your own emotions
I totally get it. You’re a mama bear. You would do anything to protect your child and fix everything for her. That’s your job, right? Well sure. But you also need to let her find her own way. She needs you to guide her, advise her, and be there for her. She will look to you for signs on how to manage a challenging situation.
Now, if you’re flying off the handle getting angry, or putting in phone calls left, right and centre and making the situation even worse and fraught with drama, that’s not going to help anyone. And she will withdraw from you further. She doesn’t want to upset you, so she’ll think twice about sharing any challenges with you in future.
Be calm and measured. Listen without fixing. Quite often, a teenager just wants to feel heard. Be that steady hand that guides and supports. It takes patience to get to this point, but it is possible.
3. Get help
Sometimes you need to call the cavalry in. It’s hard to admit you don’t know how to help your daughter, but sometimes you simply don’t. Instead of flailing around in the dark, reach out for support.
Trusted friends and family members may be able to spend some one-on-one time with your daughter. Not having mum around can sometimes lead to teenagers opening up a bit more. An aunty has the benefit of not being as emotionally involved (or blind) as Mum and could look at things a little more objectively.
There are also a number of therapists that specialise in helping teenage girls manage their behaviour.
And online supportive programs like the Arrive & Thrive in Wellbeing Program arms teenage girls with the tools, information and guidance to confidently face and beat any challenge.
When you’re unsure of what to do or how to reach out, a program that helps your daughter take ownership of her own wellbeing and flourish is a good place to start.
*NAB Independent Schools Survey 2017