Issues and Challenges

Social and Emotional Changes in Girls During Adolescence

Adolescence is undoubtedly a tumultuous journey marked by numerous upheavals and tribulations that can leave young girls feeling confused, as if trapped in a whirlwind of emotions. Gone is the innocent young girl who thinks mommy knows everything and daddy is larger than life. As parents, it is essential to approach this phase with empathy, understanding, and unconditional love, recognizing that the girl experiencing it finds herself in a new normal and is desperately seeking a way to express her feelings, be heard and find acceptance.

Before delving into actions for tackling this phase, it is crucial to grasp what leads to it. Adolescence is a period of rapid change, both physically and emotionally. An adolescent girl is grappling with identity formation, peer pressure, academic stress, and hormonal fluctuations. This volatile mix can result in psychological issues, emotional breakdowns, and a desire for independence. Navigating this “rebellious” phase in girls during the transition to and throughout puberty can be a challenging time for both parents and adolescents. It is important to understand the symptoms and causes of this phase to effectively support and guide them.
What is Average Adolescent Behavior? 
Defiance and Opposition

Girls may become more defiant, argumentative, and resistant to authority figures, such as parents and teachers. They may question rules and seek more independence. A teenage girl may start arguing more frequently about curfew times, household rules, and chores. She may insist on making her own decisions, which can lead to clashes with parents.
Mood Swings
Hormonal changes during puberty can lead to mood swings, irritability, and heightened emotional sensitivity. Adolescents experience intense mood swings, going from extreme happiness to sadness within minutes, which can be challenging for both them and their family to navigate.
Peer Influence and Pressure
Girls may be strongly influenced by their peers, often prioritizing peer relationships over family relationships. They may adopt new behaviors and attitudes to fit in with their peer group. One starts dressing, talking, and acting more like her friends, even if it means distancing herself from family traditions or values.
Peer influence becomes more prominent during adolescence. Girls may conform to peer norms and values, even if they conflict with their family’s beliefs; friends may have a strong influence on decisions and behaviors, leading a girl to adopt attitudes that concern her family.
Adolescents may withdraw from family interactions, spending more time alone or with friends. They may be less communicative about their feelings and experiences, spend more time in their room, avoid family dinners, and prefer texting or chatting with friends rather than talking to the parents.
What Causes This?
Hormonal Changes

The onset of puberty brings significant hormonal changes, which can affect mood, emotions, and behavior. These changes can contribute to mood swings and heightened emotions. Hormonal fluctuations during puberty can cause a girl to have mood swings that seem to come out of nowhere.
Identity Formation
Adolescence is a time of identity exploration. Girls may rebel as they try to establish their own sense of self, separate from their parents’ expectations and values. One may want to explore her individuality and establish her own beliefs and values, even if they differ from yours.
The Desire to Fit in
Adolescent girls are going through a time in their lives where they are carving a space for themselves in their social context that often involves aligning and re-aligning. This makes them susceptible to peer influence and pressure. In many cases, young girls who are not confident about themselves succumb to this need for conforming
Desire for Independence
As girls grow older, they desire more independence and autonomy. They may resist parental control and seek opportunities to make their own decisions. They may want more freedom to make choices about their life, such as what extracurricular activities they want to pursue or how to spend free time.
Stress and Anxiety
The pressures of school, social relationships, and the transition to adulthood can cause stress and anxiety. Rebellion may be a coping mechanism to deal with these stressors. Academic stress and the pressure to excel in school may contribute to a teenage girl’s rebellious behavior as she tries to cope with the demands of adolescence.
Communication Challenges
Girls may struggle to express their emotions and needs effectively and out of fear of not being understood and judged because maybe deep down they also do not understand their own behavior and thoughts. Poor communication can lead to misunderstandings and conflicts. One might find it difficult to articulate her feelings and ends up resorting to rebellious behaviors as a way to express herself.
What Can You Do?
Open Communication

Create an environment where your daughter feels safe to express herself. Encourage open, non-judgmental discussions about her feelings. Initiate conversations by saying, e.g., “I am here to listen, and I want to understand what you are going through.”
Active Listening
Pay close attention to what she says, without interrupting or imposing your own perspective. Validate her feelings, even if you do not agree with them. Instead of immediately offering solutions, express empathy and say, e.g., “I hear you, and I can see why you might feel that way.”
Set Boundaries with Empathy
While allowing independence, establish clear boundaries. Explain the reasons behind rules and decisions, fostering understanding rather than resistance. When setting a curfew, explain what is in it for her by saying, e.g., “We have this curfew because we want to make sure you are safe, and because we care about your wellbeing.”
Quality Time
Spend quality time together. Engage in activities that strengthen your bond and provide opportunities for conversation. Plan family outings or game nights to reconnect and create positive memories together.
Seek Professional Help
If the rebellious phase is accompanied by severe mental health concerns, consider seeking the assistance of a qualified therapist or counselor.  If you notice your daughter’s behavior becoming increasingly risky and destructive, seeking professional help is a proactive step to address underlying issues.
The rebellious phase in girls can be difficult to manage, but it is also a time of growth and self-discovery. By approaching it with compassion, understanding, and effective communication, parents, siblings, and the girl herself can navigate this challenging period with love and grace. Remember, behind the stubbornness and defiance lies a young soul seeking to be heard, loved, and respected. HH

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