You’re Only as Happy as Your Least Happy Child
Grumpy. Lazy. Annoyed. Irritated. Self-absorbed. Emotional.
It probably sounds familiar to many parents, who would often use these words to describe their pre-adolescent teen girl. These aren’t the only words they’d use, of course, but for many parents raising teen girls, happiness is not a common term that comes to mind when talking about their young offspring.
This may be unsurprising, considering the immense changes in development, academic pressures, and new social avenues that they’re navigating every day. It’s overwhelming and daunting, to say the least.
Ensuring teen girls are happy has never been more important, especially as we see the bullying and societal pressure that have risen to incredible heights thanks to the impossible standards of social media, Photoshop, and filters used so frequently. Celebrating individuality and experiencing happiness and simple joys is too easily lost these days.
Often, girls in their preteen and teen years are able to hold things together and be quite self-assured or even happy at school. However, once they’re back in the comfort of their own homes, this effort that they’ve been exerting to keep up appearances in school or with their friends is too exhausting to maintain. That’s why parents often see the worst of their children.
Why Our Daughters’ Happiness is So Important
So why do our once-sweet, lovely, and pleasant daughters become so challenging during preadolescence? Maybe instead we should ask: “Why do we as mothers or parents expect our daughters to be happy-go-lucky teens when we acknowledge that the stress they’re under is so enormous?”
The benefits of a happy adolescence transcend the teenage years. One study, conducted by University College London and the University of Warwick, surveyed 10,000 Americans and found that happy teens reported higher incomes when they hit age 29 and above. In fact, very happy teens earned 30% more than their less happy peers. This remained true even when researchers took into account mitigating variables like IQ and education.
How to Encourage Happiness
Teenagers can be happy… in the right situations. In order to help our teen girls experience the happiness that’s so important for their future wellbeing, we need to foster these situations as often as we can.
Let’s look at some of the factors that help foster happy teens, and how parents can help keep the happiness equation in balance.
Balance between outdoors and indoors
While there is no doubt that adolescence can at times be difficult, there is also ample data to suggest that it can be a time of creativity, compassion, and connection to adults and peers.
Creating opportunities for your daughters to experience time in the fresh air, even when it’s met with resistance at first has been proven to help lift mood levels. Breathing in fresh air and undertaking physical movement helps keep our hormones in check!
Boundaries with socialising and homework/study/schoolwork
Teens are happiest when connecting to others. However, it’s not necessarily healthy in extreme doses. On a related note, independence around schoolwork is important, but an agreement on a realistic, healthy balance is essential.
Though it doesn’t always seem like it, teen girls thrive on boundaries and need parents to set those for them. It’s their role to push, and the parent’s role to ascertain the correct balance.
Unplugged quiet time
Switching off and tuning out to be with yourself is an important part of accepting who you are. With all the notifications and pings from devices, it is not always possible to give ourselves time to do so.
There is immense value in taking time out from electrical stimuli and spending time unwinding. Let your daughter choose whether to read a good book, draw, or undertake some other creative pursuit away from her screens.
Acknowledge and accept their feelings
Allowing time for your daughters to sit with their emotions is a healthy route to getting them back to happiness. We often try to solve things and offer solutions when they are not really looking to us for that. Our daughters just need us to hear, and all we as parents should do is listen.
Providing them this space and teaching them to lean into their feelings will better enable them to move on from them after reaching a point of acceptance.
Giving them space to be themselves
Teen girls often find themselves in a myriad of different complexities that are all quite new. It can be difficult for them to open up about these private things to their parents. We want to be part of it and desperately yearn to protect them from making any impulsive decisions, but ultimately, we need to give them this space to be themselves, and to work out these issues on their own.
Looking to the Future
A girl’s teenage years are going to stay with her for the rest of her life. Adults who may barely recall events from even two weeks ago can vividly recount times of true happiness or deep unhappiness that occurred when they were teenagers.
Let’s aim to fill our girls’ memories with the former.