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Ask any woman how they’re feeling today, and chances are the word ‘stressed’ will escape their mouth within minutes of conversation. A poll conducted in 2014 by the American Psychological Association showed that women reported higher levels of stress than men, and had feelings of nervousness, anxiousness, fatigue, depression/sadness, and constant worry. It should then come as no surprise that pre-adolescent and adolescent girls also experience more stress than their male counterparts. The main causes of stress for these young girls are test results, managing parental expectations, and relationship problems. Society expectations for girls include working hard and achieving perfection in school, mastering skills in sports and/or art, being popular/ have many friends, being kind to everyone and meeting certain standards of beauty. These are many hats for a girl to wear, and it’s no wonder that the pressure of becoming perfect in each facet of their life becomes overwhelming.
It can be quite worrisome to discover that your seemingly healthy child is experiencing difficulties in her life - especially since emotional health and wellbeing has implications on self-esteem, behaviour, school achievements, and future health. Because stress can affect us all in different ways, it’s important for parents to recognize the signs. With pre-adolescents, behavioural changes can occur, which include: irritability, withdrawing from previous pleasurable activities, and worrying or complaining about school. However, adolescents will often confide in their friends, avoid their parents and even express hostility towards them, and change friend groups. Physical symptoms can also manifest, which include: headaches, stomach pains, nightmares or difficulty sleeping, and diet changes.
Experiencing stress at such a formative age can result in undesirable consequences in the years to come. Therefore, it’s important to not only look for signs of stress in your daughter, but help them to acknowledge the stress they’re experiencing and how it’s psychologically and physically affecting them. No matter the age, girls are looking for someone who they feel safe talking to and who will listen to their fears without judgement. When mothers and daughters have a close bond they are able to share their emotional burdens. When a daughter shares her stressors, she is more likely to overcome challenging situations.
Moreover, research shows that proactive parents who have frequent conversations with their daughters about issues at home and school, may provide girls with strategies and solutions to help them manage their concerns. Some of these strategies and solutions primarily focus around self care, such as eating well, exercising, sleep hygiene, and participating in activities they enjoy. If parents demonstrate these self-care habits themselves, their daughters are likely to also model this behaviour. Building resilience is necessary for girls, as it will help them adapt to stress and adversity. Activities such as yoga and meditation, can help girls build resilience and mitigate their stress response by allowing them to be mindful of their body and breath, and helps promote relaxation. Natural therapies like herbs and acupuncture can also support girls in times of stress, but are generally recommended on a case-by-case basis by a regulated health professional, such as a naturopathic doctor.
If you are concerned about stress in your daughter, seek the tools and help you need to support her, whether that is advice from a close friend, or the help of a professional.
American Psychological Association. Identifying signs of stress in your child and teen. Retrieved from: http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/stress-children.aspx.
American Psychological Association. Stress in America: Paying with our health. Retrieved from: https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2014/stress-report.pdf.
American Psychological Association. Resilience Guide for Parents & Teachers. Retrieved from: http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/resilience.aspx.
Lougheed, JP., Koval, P., & Hollenstein, T. (2016) Sharing the burden: The interpersonal regulation of emotional arousal in mother-daughter dyads. Emotion, 16(1):83-93.
Olweus D. (1991) Bully/victim problems among school children: some basic facts and effects of a school based intervention programme. In: Pepler D., Rubin K.,eds The development and treatment of childhood aggression. Hillsdale, Erbaum, 1991:411-418
Rickert, VI., Gilbert, AL., & Aalsma, MC. (2014)Proactive parents are assets to the health and well-being of teens. J Pediatr, 164(6):1390-5.
Material on this website is provided for informational purposes only. It should not be used as a replacement for medical diagnosis, treatment, or professional medical advice. Always seek professional medical consultation by a licensed medical or naturopathic physician for diagnosis and treatment of any medical condition. Please seek medical attention immediately if ever concerned.