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  • Paula Thompson
    Paula Thompson

    Stop Infantilizing Adolescent Girls: Why Validation is Key in Understanding Emotions

    Most adults have personal experience of adolescence, making them uniquely qualified to understand the unique challenges that young teens face, but for some reason, these same adults are unable to recognize, discuss and accept the emotional norms associated with adolescent girls. The consequences of this misunderstanding, both in the short and long term, are very real, and it's time to stop treating adolescent girls as emotionally abnormal.

    For starters, denying young girls their emotional reality can have an enormously negative impact on their mental health. From an early age, girls might find themselves unable to reconcile their feelings with the narrative that has been created for them in more conservative circles. Girls might be accused of being dramatic, hysterical and irrational - comments which not only invalidate the girl's emotional state, but also erodes their ability to trust their own intuition and intuition in general. This deeply unfair treatment carries over into adulthood, where girls grow up with the false impression that showing emotions is unacceptable and wrong, even when those emotions are warranted and healthy.

    Similarly, disallowing girls to talk about their emotions today can make it harder for them to navigate difficult situations when they're older. If they never learn as adolescents how to express themselves and navigate complex conflicts, they won't know what to do when adulthood presents them with similar complex issues. Teenagers should not be expected to internally solve all their problems without confiding in others and without lessons in constructive communication.

    Of course, there are practical implications to treating adolescent girls as emotionally abnormal too. Too often, teenage girls are discouraged from participating in hobbies and activities that could have a positive impact on their development. This could include activities like sports, music and art, that are not only fun for the young person, but it can also help promote healthy emotional outlets, social skills and better overall stress management.

    Not only that, but preventing teenagers from expressing their emotions can also lead them to developing unhealthy coping mechanisms later on in life. This could range from substance abuse, drinking or smoking to drug intake, sexual behaviour or self-harm. Instead of allowing these behaviours to seep into their lives, girls need to receive the validation and understanding they deserve, so they can make choices that create healthier patterns for later in life.

    Obviously there is no single answer to how adults should interact with teen emotions. Some may resort to certain levels of pressure to enforce certain boundaries, while others may encourage healthy communication and open dialogue. It is important though, to take into account that the experiences of adolescents can overlap with adult experiences, even if they don't always look the same. It is naive to think that just because one is a teen, they should expect to feel something different than someone who is much older.

    Teaching teens how to manage their emotions and helping them recognise unhealthy behaviours should be an integral part of any adolescent education program, and it should start by validating their emotions. Adults should treat adolescent girls with the respect they deserve and understand that these girls will grow up one day, so they require appropriate attention at a young age.

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