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How to Raise an Emotionally Healthy Daughter

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Dr. Meg Meeker

I recently talked about how to raise an emotionally healthy son. While it is difficult today, it is not impossible. The same is true for girls. You can raise an emotionally healthy daughter, you just have to understand what she needs and what she’s up against.

For teen girls today, the greatest obstacle to emotional health is social media.

We’ve talked about this before, but last month, a study was released in the U.K. that directly linked depression among teen girls and social media use. It also revealed how social media affects girls differently than boys:

  • Two-fifths of girls use social media for three hours a day or more, while only one-fifth of boys do.
  • For teens who use social media more than five hours a day, there was a 50 percent increase in depressive symptoms among girls, compared to 35 percent among boys.
  • Forty percent of girls, compared to 25 percent of boys, have been harassed online or cyberbullied.
  • Girls, more than ever, are in need of emotional support from their parents because they are not getting it where they are spending most of their time: online.

For teen girls today, the greatest obstacle to emotional health is social media.

How to Support Your Daughter Emotionally

The reason social media is taking a harder toll on girls than it is boys could be the way they are socialized. Rachel Simmons, author of Enough As She Is, said in an interview:

Girls are socialized at a very young age to rely heavily on feedback from others. They grow up paying more and more attention to what other people think of them and whether they are measuring up to those external expectations.

Social media makes this even more challenging since it allows girls to measure themselves against every influencer, celebrity and popular friend they see online. A great deal of self-esteem and inner strength is required for a young girl to be on social media and not feel like she is less than those around her. This is where you, her parent, can have a huge influence.

Because social media is only focused on the appearance or how things seem, focus on your daughter’s character. Compliment her, but in the right way. If your compliments consistently focus on her appearance or her performance, you will be reinforcing what she sees on Instagram and Snapchat every day. Instead, be a different voice for your daughter. Make an effort to pick out one or two character qualities you see in her—her compassion, her perseverance—and applaud her for those.

Girls, more than ever, are in need of emotional support from their parents because they are not getting it where they are spending most of their time: online.

How to Prevent the Pitfalls of Social Media

Because social media has such an extreme effect on girls, boundaries around social media use are required to make sure you raise an emotionally healthy daughter. If your child is already struggling with anxiety or depression, get her off all social media. Period. The numbers are clear. Social media is not helping her. If she doesn’t struggle with depression or anxiety, limit her social media to 30 minutes per day. That might seem extreme to her, and she may need to wean off it at first, but the long-term effects are worth the push back you might receive.

In addition, do not allow social media to be private. Everything that your teen views on social media should be visible to you. Some parents see lack of privacy in social media as a violation of privacy for their teen, but this is unreasonable. Parents need to know if their kids are getting bullied, sent sexts, or anything else that can harm them.

DO NOT allow social media to be private. Everything that your teen views on social media should be visible to you. Parents need to know if their kids are getting bullied, sent sexts, or anything else that can harm them.

Your daughter is being told that her inner world doesn’t matter. All that matters is what she looks like, how nice her clothes are and how many “likes” she can get. This says nothing of who she is, her character or how to actually be successful in life, and this is what leads to emotional instability.

As her parent, you have the power to combat the voices she hears on social media. Focus on her character, take the phone away when necessary and teach your daughter that her true self doesn’t live online. Her true self is who you see every day, and you love her for it more than any amount of “likes” she could ever receive.

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