This video series is the first of a seven part series that I am doing with world renown sex education, Jackie Brewton, on healthy sex education for teen girls. Over the past twenty years, I have worked with thousands of teen girls as their psychologist and the conversation often turns to relationships. Girls (and boys for that matter) want to talk about their relationships but without the judgment. I have two daughters myself (both are too young to be dating at this point), so I find these conversations incredibly insightful, fun, and eye opening! Quite frankly, teen girls need a trusted adult male to be able to confide in about how to date. Otherwise, we are choosing to allow them to find out too many tough life lessons about dating on their own. That just seems unfair, unconscionable, and social irresponsible.
That is exactly why I am doing this post and focusing a large percentage of my time on working with teen girls. In this interview, I was asked what I thought "the number one issue facing teen girls today was" and my answer surprised Jackie. She probably thought that I was going to say lack of access to dads, negative images in the media, male chauvinism, etc. Don't get me wrong, all of those are serious issues facing teen girls but my clients complain about a larger issue: Loneliness. Yes, loneliness. Despite having a bevy of friends on Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter (teens don't really use Facebook now that their parents are on there on droves...lol), they still feel disconnected, unsupported and alone.
Most teens experience a sense of loneliness on the weekends or during a personal crisis. They see their friends hanging out together via their posts on the various social media platforms but wonder why they didn't get an invite. Additionally, they may have a crisis (say... having to go the hospital for any injury) and will post a picture about it. To their surprise, their "friends" don't call or come by to check on them but rather only "like" the post or make a comment. If they are lucky, they make get a direct message. We know from the research that today's teens are struggling with compassion and intimacy due to social media. It's not that their friends are mean but, rather, they simply are disconnected and don't understand concept of presence, emotional support and "being their" (versus online) for their friends.
As a result, this makes teen girls (and boys) feel very alone and uncared for by those who label themselves as "friends". Too much of this, combined with lack of relational intimacy at home can lead teen girls to get into codependent and unhealthy relationships with boys (and girls) because they are their #1 source for intimate connection. We like to label girls who are hungry for intimacy as "fast" but we must first check the unmet need and source of their desire for connection. Often times, they are social disconnected from female peers, ignored by family and lack quality intimate conversations and physical touch from their fathers (even active ones and fathers residing in the home).
We cannot do this to our teen girls and tell them in good faith that we love them. Loneliness kills...literally. It kills self-confidence, a sense of belonging and healthy relationships with girlfriends. We must make sure that, as fathers, we are consistent, active and engaged with our daughters. Additionally, we must ensure that our teen girls have positive female friends prior to dating to make sure that their foundation is strong as well as diversify their support group beyond a single boy (or girl). In the Bible, Ecclesiastes 4: 9-12 emphasizes the importance of friendship and connection:
Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
10 If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
In summary, that means that we need one another to avoid the damaging effects of loneliness. So, parents, set this one rule as a prerequisite to dating: You must have 3-4 solid, platonic friendships with girls prior to dating boys. This establishes a baseline of attention, social support and provides a buffer to being overly influenced by boys when they start dating. If he acts up and needs the silent treatment to change his ways, this way, she will have friends to hang out with and have fun versus chasing him around and losing her power as a queen.
If you are moved by this post and desire for me to work with your network, agency, group please contact me. I would love so serve and speak with you.