Have you ever heard someone insult another by calling them “sensitive?” How about “a baby” or “dramatic?” Of course you have. It’s because we live in a world that rewards toughness and discourages displays of emotion or sensitivity, which are seen as signs of weakness. If you’re a mature adult or the CEO of a major company, this reaction may make sense. But being a teenage girl in this world is a significant difficulty.
Part of the experience of puberty is feeling new and powerful emotions. Often this can mean a lack of control over these emotions, or being surprised by how many situations, comments, or actions of others deeply affect you. Nearly all teen girls experience this new wave of sensitivity to some extent as they press on to adulthood, and some girls experience it in heavy and sometimes crippling ways.
As a rational, mature adult, it can be incredibly difficult to parent a sensitive teen. We want to say things like “It’s not that big of a deal!” or “Just get over it!” or “Why are you so sensitive?” Unfortunately, this can seriously damage the relationship and only hurt your sensitive daughter further. So what can you do?
Learning to Embrace Your Sensitive Daughter
The first step is to accept that she truly is sensitive – she’s experiencing powerful and sometimes unknown emotions that are difficult to overcome or control. Allow her to be upset; allow her to cry! Resist the urge to dismiss or shut down her sensitive episodes, though it is difficult.
The most vital step is just to be there for her. Be around when she needs you. Listen carefully when she wants to complain, despair, or rage. Hug her when she cries or hold her hand to show affection and closeness. This presence combined with continued parenting to help her learn skills for adulthood will allow you to successfully complete the last step – finding solutions together.
It’s tempting to solve all her problems or tell her exactly what she should do, but often sensitive teen girls need to work through the emotions and come up with their own solutions. There are various ways to help her with solutions, such as suggestions, role-playing, and positive affirmations. Overall, your sensitive daughter should take control of her life and make her own decisions.
If your sensitive daughter appears to have deeper, more permanent issues, or you’re finding yourself unequal to the task of supporting her frequent emotional needs – she may need more help than you can offer. Professional help is available for sensitive or troubled teen girls that can help them manage their emotions and become healthy adults.