Science-based tips for improving teen girls’ mental wellness

Are you a parent of a teenage girl? Read on for science-based tips for improving their mental wellness.

As any parent knows, the tween and teen years can be a turbulent time for our kids. There’s so much going on in their development, both physically and emotionally. Considerable shifts in their cognitive and physical development during puberty lead some parents to feel like they’re dealing with entirely new girls, and not always in a way that’s easy to handle. 

Additionally, we’re in a period right now that’s been called a global teen mental health crisis. According to the NHS, “7% of 10- to 15-year-olds in the UK are unhappy with their lives.” While the pandemic exacerbated this trend, in truth, it had been a growing concern for years prior as the rise of social media and other pressures increasingly took their toll. 

All of this has made it harder for parents to feel like they’re successfully parenting their tween and teen girls. 

While professional interventions are necessary in some situations, there are lots of things that parents can do at home to help support the mental wellness of everyone in their household, including their tween and teen girls. 

Understanding the importance of preventative support for pre-adolescent girls 

Adolescence is a period of significant brain development, marked by structural and functional changes that profoundly impact cognitive, emotional, and social development. 

During this time, the brain undergoes a process of pruning and consolidation, where unused neural connections are eliminated and important ones are strengthened. This process is influenced by a variety of factors, including genetics, environment, and experiences. 

Studies have also shown that adolescent brains are particularly sensitive to reward and social cues, which can affect decision-making, risk-taking, and social behavior. 

Understanding the science behind adolescent brain development can help us better appreciate why preventative support during this time is so crucial. By teaching our girls skills and coping mechanisms that can build resilience, we can help them navigate these challenges and others they’ll face down the road. 

These tools can help them with skills like: 

  • More effectively managing stress 
  • Naming and recognizing emotions 
  • Building healthy relationships 
  • Developing a positive self-image 
  • Practicing self-care  
  • Communicating assertively 
  • Problem-solving 
  • Decision-making 

By providing girls with these skills, we empower them to face challenges with confidence and resilience, which can help them lead more fulfilling and meaningful lives. 

Additionally, by investing in this type of preventative support on a broader scale, we are not only helping girls individually but also creating a more resilient and empowered generation of women who can positively impact their families, communities, and the world.

Four things parents can do to help  

Preventative support from parents can play a vital role in supporting the mental health of tween and teen girls. Here are some suggestions for how you can help. 

1) Encourage open and honest communication

Creating a safe space for your teen girl to share her thoughts and feelings without judgment makes it much easier for her to come to you for help if she’s struggling with her mental health.

This means actively listening to her and acknowledging her feelings. By creating a supportive and non-judgmental environment, you can help your teen girl feel heard and validated, which can positively impact her mental health and wellbeing.

2) Help your daughter to develop healthy coping mechanisms

So many of our go-to habits get ingrained around this age. By modeling and suggesting positive habits and healthy coping mechanisms like meditation and exercise to cope with stress, you can help set your daughter up with healthy habits that will last a lifetime. 

3) Encourage positive social connections and friendships

Friendships take on a new level of importance as our girls hit puberty, but they can also be a source of stress and conflict. Encouraging positive social connections and friendships can help provide a sense of belonging and support during this time of transition. 

Encourage your teen girl to get involved in activities or clubs that align with her interests, which can provide opportunities to meet like-minded peers. Emphasize the importance of healthy boundaries and communication in friendships, and help your teen girl learn to recognize when a friendship may have become toxic or unhealthy.  

4) Model healthy habits around sleep, nutrition, and exercise

Since your tween daughter’s brain is in such active development, it’s essential to ensure she is giving it as many resources as possible. 

  • Encourage her to prioritize getting enough sleep, which can significantly impact her cognitive function and mood. 
  • Model healthy eating habits by providing nutritious meals and snacks, and emphasize the importance of balanced meals that include plenty of fruits, vegetables, and protein. 
  • Finally, encourage your teen girl to find an exercise routine that she enjoys, whether it’s joining a sports team, practicing yoga or buying her junior tennis rackets for girls. Remember to model the importance of regular exercise yourself, too.

Bringing it all together 

As parents, we all want the best for our tween and teen girls, and supporting their mental wellness is a critical part of that. 

By understanding the importance of preventative support during puberty and adolescence, we can help our girls develop resilience and learn the necessary skills to navigate the challenges they will face. 

Ultimately, investing in our girls’ mental wellness today can help build a brighter future for all.

Drawing on her experience with ElevateRA, her educational venture focused on preventative support for pre-adolescent girls, Ramita Anand provides parents, teachers, and carers with practical advice as they work to support girls in their journey toward mental wellbeing.