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Parenting teen girls is a huge challenge today and requires patience and perseverance. How can you tell when a teenage girl is at high risk for behaviors such as drug/alcohol use, dropping out of school, pregnancy, violence, depression, or suicide? One of the difficulties parents face is how to recognize the subtle indicators of these behaviors and then how to intervene.

Obstacles that can cause parents to delay getting help for their teen are confusion, denial, and hoping the problem will just go away by itself. Many parents find themselves comparing their child to other children. Although it is tempting to compare the teen to other children, this does not help solve the problem. Parents will do best if they look at their individual situation and then decide on a course of action. Parents should trust their instincts and take action before the situation deteriorates (What is a Troubled Teen?).

Teenage girls experience significant changes during this time (physical, sexual, emotional, and behavioral). Strong guidance is needed from parents and teachers in order to help guide a teen through these stressful new experiences.

Open communication regarding emerging sexual feelings and confusion about the changing relationship among peers is crucial and helps the teen realize that what they are experiencing is normal. Teenage girls grow up too fast these days and they should not be pressured into growing up before they are emotionally ready. They should be allowed to develop their skills in an age appropriate way.

Signs to look out for when parenting a teenage girl include: changes in normal activities or behaviors which cannot be explained by the normal issues of adolescence: changes in the teens appearance, friends, or peer group; staying in the bathroom for a prolonged period of time, which could indicate the beginning of a eating disorder; problems at school, such as cutting class, slipping grades,  or fights with classmates; indifference to hobbies or school activities they previously enjoyed; refusing to do chores; missing curfew; creating a chaotic and hostile environment at home; and frequently appearing sleepy, depressed, or agitated. If the teen exhibits any of these behaviors, immediate action is necessary. Setting clear boundaries and rules is essential, as is consistently enforcing the boundaries and rules (Teenage Substance Abuse).

Studies show that girls may lose self-confidence and self-worth during this pivotal time, become less physically active, perform less well in school, and neglect their own interests and aspirations. During these years, girls are more vulnerable to negative outside influences and to mixed messages about risky behaviors.

Teen girls are under the misconception that they should look like the models they see on the covers of magazines, and many girls today suffer from various eating disorders trying to live up to this impossible standard of beauty. If any changes in the teen’s eating habits occur, care should be taken to prevent an eating disorder from developing. Girls are also at higher risk than boys for sexual abuse, which has been associated with substance abuse.

Teenage girls are less likely to engage in at-risk behaviors if they have a warm, close-knit family and parental supervision with consistent discipline, close friends, an extended family that provides community resources, an ability to adapt to changing circumstances, and a strong sense of self worth (Keeping Youth Drug Free).

Parents who have positive communication with their teenage girls can negotiate their budding independence in a way that will protect the teen from negative outside influences yet allow them to experience the power of independent decision making.

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