As children progress into their teenage years, a gulf often develops between them and their parents.
The parents can feel the teenager is pushing them away. The easiest path for some parents is to step aside and keep their distance.
But a recent report, from St. Mary’s College in South Bend, on the welfare of Indiana girls indicates that teenagers, particularly girls, in their early teens need parental support as much as when they were younger.
The report notes a 2012 survey that found a third of Hoosier girls in grades 8-10 felt sad or hopeless. That’s distressing news to any parent of a daughter. But this is even worse: 20 percent of Indiana girls in the eighth grade said they had contemplated suicide, 14 percent had planned it and 12 percent had attempted to kill themselves at least once.
What drives some Indiana girls to the brink? The St. Mary’s report concludes, basically, that the suicidal tendencies are caused by a poor self image and low self-esteem, much of it connected to physical appearance.
There’s probably a link, as well, between abuse of girls and suicidal thoughts. In 2011, 15 percent of Indiana female high school students reported that they had been raped, a percentage “significantly greater than the national rate.”
And, in 2011, 28 percent of Hoosier high school girls reported having been bullied on school grounds. That’s nearly 3 in 10, turning the classic image of boys bullying boys on its ear.
So, what can you do to help your daughter, granddaughter, niece or friend make it through her teenage years alive and healthy?
Look for changes in behavior patterns. Talk through problems, rather than turning a deaf ear and walking away. Give praise liberally and criticism sparingly. Encourage girls to get involved in sports, clubs and other activities. Encourage them to volunteer and give back to the community.
As those who have tried know, it’s not easy raising a teenage girl. As the St. Mary’s study shows, it’s clearly not easy being one.
Online resources Read the St. Mary's College report, "The Status of Girls in Indiana 2013" at cwil.saintmarys.edu Visit these web pages for guidance in helping teenage girls navigate tough times: ◆ helpguide.org/mental/depression_teen.htm ◆ family.go.com/parenting/pkg-teen/article-781708-dealing-with-adolescent-girls-t/ ◆ kidshealth.org/parent/growth/growing/adolescence.html