Teenage Girls: Exploring Issues Adolescent Girls Face and Strategies to Help Them

Teenage Girls: Exploring Issues Adolescent Girls Face and Strategies to Help Them

by Ginny Olson

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Girls are more than just sugar and spice. We’ve all figured that out. What we haven’t figured out completely is how they’re wired, why they do the things they do, how the world around them affects their choices and opinions, and what that means for youth ministry—until now.In Teenage Girls, you’ll find advice from counselors and veteran youth workers, along with helpful suggestions on how to minister to teenage girls. Each chapter includes discussion questions to help you and other youth workers process the issues your own students face and learn how you can help them and mentor them through this tumultuous time.In addition to the traditional issues people commonly associate with girls, such as eating disorders, self-image issues, and depression, author Ginny Olson will guide you through some of the new issues on the rise in girls’ lives. You’ll understand more about issues related to:Family • Addiction • Emotional well-being • Mentalhealth • Physical welfare • Sexuality • Spirituality •Relationships

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780310669777
Publisher: Zondervan
Publication date: 11/04/2008
Sold by: HarperCollins Publishing
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 240
File size: 1 MB
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Ginny Olson abides in Minneapolis, MN where she is the Director of Youth Ministry for the Northwest Conference of the Evangelical Covenant Church as well as a writer, speaker and consultant. Previously, she was one of two directors of the Center for Youth Ministry Studies at North Park University in Chicago, Illinois.  She also served on the youth ministry staffs at Willow Creek Community Church and Grace Church, Edina, Minnesota. She is the author of “Teenage Girls” and co-editor and contributor to “Breaking the Gender Barrier in Youth Ministry.”

Read an Excerpt

Elise watched Karla drift into the youth room with a
swarm of boys surrounding her, basking in her glow.
With a flip of her dark brown hair, she'd smile at the
ones who made her laugh---and they were all trying.
Her short denim skirt was slung low around her hips,
her long legs seemed to stretch into oblivion, and one
strap of her black knit tank top was resting provocatively
off one shoulder. Even the guy leaders turned
their heads when she walked in. Elise just shook her
head. Karla was only 15, but she'd already mastered
the art of flirting.
They were starting small groups that night, and
Elise was dismayed to learn that Karla was in her
group. If Elise were honest, she'd admit that Karla
intimidated her. She had never really talked to Karla,
as the girl only attended youth group in spurts. Plus,
Elise had never felt comfortable around 'girly girls.'
She was an athlete who'd broken a few school records
when she was in college. How on earth was
she going to connect with someone like Karla? Elise
had vague misgivings that this group was going to
focus more on makeovers and boy-toys than on anything
Later that evening, as they sat in tiny orange
plastic chairs around the linoleum table in the second
grade Sunday school room, the girls in Elise's
group were sharing their stories. Elise had to hide
her surprise as Karla talked about how much time
basketball required, and how it was taking her away
from church and her studies. She was hoping to win
a much-needed scholarship for college, but she was
debating whether or not it was worth the cost. When
Karla asked the group to pray for her, Elise thought,
'They need to be praying for me.'
Even though she believed she was seeing the
whole picture, Elise had seen only one of Karla's
personas. An adolescent girl is multifaceted, and
which facet she chooses to show all depends on her
mood. She's wavering in a world where some days
she wishes she could still play with her dolls, yet she
recognizes that her body is now able to bear children.
She's in a constant state of fl ux, wondering who she
is right now, and who she'll be tomorrow. Some days
she'll feel as though she's 21. Other days, she's 10
again. It's a season of setting aside her childhood
props and grieving that loss, while at the same time
eagerly rejoicing as she becomes an adult. This isn't
a one-day decision; it's a process that takes place
over her adolescent years, as she constantly tries on
new personalities and casts off others.
During this phase of her life, change is the only
constant; every relationship is shifting, and every
belief is questioned. What she once knew was solid
ground now feels as though an earthquake hit it.
She's not quite sure where to fi nd the stability of her
childhood, or if she even wants to. In the midst of
this chaos, she's screaming the question of adolescence:
'Who am I?' Tied to that question is a whole
series of other questions: Who is she in relation to
her friends? To her family? To her community? She's
seeking to find her identity.
Erik Erikson is the name most frequently associated
with the topic of identity development in adolescents.
Erikson, a researcher in the area of human development,
divided the human life span into phases, and a
key issue marks each phase. According to Erikson,
the adolescent phase of life deals with the issue of
'identity versus identity confusion.'1 In other words,
during her adolescent years it's healthy for a teenage
girl to try to figure out who she is and how she fi ts into
her surrounding context. The unhealthy alternative (or
'identity confusion') occurs when a girl reaches the
end of adolescence (around her early 20s), and she
hasn't made a commitment to any identity.
Identity formation is why it's normal for a girl to
walk into youth group one month dressed in black
Goth attire (and an attitude to match), while next
month she's wearing polo shirts and Shetland sweaters.
She's researching different personas to see what
she likes and what others respond to affirmatively
(in her judgment). Ideally, according to Erikson's
theory, by the time she's reached young adulthood,
she'll have made choices and commitments about
her beliefs, her values, and her goals in life. All of
these help form an identity that's acceptable to her,
as well as to her larger community.
However, if at age 22 she's still walking into
church wearing a punk outfit one Sunday and hip-hop
the next, those are indicators that she's not moving in
a healthy direction. Those kinds of drastic, external
persona changes are a sign that she's floundering internally
and having a difficult time committing to an
identity. She's probably still waffling about what she
believes, what she really values, and what she wants
to do with her life. She's emerging from adolescence
without a committed answer in any of these areas.
This uncertainty about who she is as she heads
into young adulthood results in what Erikson would
call 'identity confusion.' Erikson doesn't claim that
adolescence is the only time people deal with their
identities; discerning one's identity is a lifelong process.
However, adolescence is when the questions
about identity are at the forefront of life and most
critical to a person's future development.
Some theorists and researchers have challenged
Erikson's theories, saying his research is biased toward
males. They propose that adolescent girls place
a higher value on intimacy and forming an identity
in relationship with others than adolescent boys do,
and that a girl will forgo pursuing goals and opportunities
if it requires sacrificing a relationship. But
gender influences on identity development seem to
be dissipating.2
'We are...most aware of
our identity when we are
just about to gain it and
when we (with that startle
which motion pictures call a
'double take') are somewhat
surprised to make its
acquaintance; or, again,
when we are just about to
enter a crisis and feel the
encroachment of identity
confusion.'3 ---Erik Erikson,
Identity and the Life Cycle
In the past, a girl developed her sense of self among
those she knew: family (including her extended family),
friends, and people in her community. She took
part in traditions, such as rites of passage, where she
learned about her culture and received input from the
elders in the community so she would understand
that she was part of a legacy of a long line of strong
women. She would receive religious guidance---not
just from her pastor, but also from others in her community.
She would receive role training from her
mother, grandmother, aunts, older sisters, and other
women in the community. All this was done with
only minimal input from the outside world.
Then came the advent of television, videos, print
media geared toward adolescent girls, cell phones,
and especially influential---the Internet. An adolescent
girl is now influenced by a multitude of sources,
and they're not just from her community but, quite
literally, from around the world. And these sources
are sending her a variety of messages, many of which
are contradictory:

Table of Contents

CONTENTS No Tourists Need Apply 7 Chapter 1: Identity Matters 15 Background 17 Infl uences on Identity Development 19 The Contexts of Identity Development 20 Self-Esteem 27 The Youth Worker’s Role 28 Chapter 2: The Adolescent Girl’s Body---In Search of “Normal” 31 Her Body Is Changing 33 Her Secondary Sex Characteristics 36 Her Primary Sex Characteristics 38 Early Maturation 42 Late Maturation 44 Strategies for Youth Workers 45 The Youth Worker’s Role 46 Chapter 3: The Adolescent Girl’s Body---Body Issues 49 Body Image 51 Extreme Exercise 58 Obesity 58 Eating Disorders 60 Recovery and Treatment for Eating Disorders 70 The Youth Worker’s Role 70 Chapter 4: Altered State: Adolescent Girls and Self-Injury 73 Self-Injury 75 The Youth Worker’s Role 78 Chapter 5: Dating Matters 81 A Little Dating History 83 Stages of Dating: Early Adolescence 83 Stages of Dating: Middle Adolescence 85 Emerging Patterns and Issues 88 The Youth Worker’s Role 93 Chapter 6: Sex Matters 97 Girls’ Sexual Activity---by the Numbers 98 Oral Sex: The New Game in Town 100 Incest and Sexual Abuse 102 Pregnancy and Abortion 104 Sexually Transmitted Diseases 108 Same-Sex Attraction 113 Chapter 7: Emotional Matters 121 The Turmoil of the Adolescent Girl’s Emotions 123 Stress and Anxiety 127 Depression 131 Suicide 137 The Youth Worker’s Role 140 Chapter 8: Brain Matters: Cognitive and Educational Issues 143 Gender Differences 148 A Girl’s Mental Development: Issues 150 The Youth Worker’s Role 159 Chapter 9: Family Matters 161 When Puberty Hits… 162 The Role of Mothers 165 The Role of Fathers 168 The Impact of Divorce 171 Siblings 175 Immigrant Family Issues 178 The Youth Worker’s Role 182 Chapter 10: Friendship Matters 183 How Friendships Change from Childhood to Adolescence 185 How Girls’ Friendships Differ from Boys’ Friendships 189 Girls and Relational Aggression 191 Girls and Violence 195 The Youth Worker’s Role 196 Chapter 11: Faith Matters 199 Pre-Adolescent Faith 201 Early Adolescent Faith 202 Middle Adolescent Faith 205 Alternative Spirituality 206 The Youth Worker’s Role 209 Notes 211

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