The adolescent years can be challenging for teen girls as they face a roller coaster of changes in themselves and are barraged by messages from the media. By the time a girl is 17 years old, she will have received more than 250,000 messages about appearance from the media, according to HealthyPlace, a site that provides information on mental health concerns. This begins early in childhood; almost 50 percent of toy commercials for girls talk about physical attractiveness, while advertising for boys does not. Media and other messages can impact self-esteem, body image and mental health. Support groups for teen girls help to provide guidance, information and mentorship.
Use games to help break the ice and get the teens to know each other. Some teen girls may feel shy around others or intimidated about talking about themselves. Give each teen a piece of paper with questions about movies, music, current events and other social topics. Have all the girls meet everyone by discussing one question for 3 minutes with each person.
Choose topics about issues that concern teen girls such as self-image, depression, bullying, self-esteem, teen pregnancy, nutrition and relationships. Avoid lecturing about these important topics. Instead, have interactive discussions, watch informative videos and brain-storm on ideas that the group has.
Invite guest speakers with whom teen girls can relate. These may be other teens or young women who have overcome an issue or accomplished a goal. Find local celebrities who are willing to speak to the group about issues such as eating disorders and body image in the media.
Arrange the seating in a circle or semi-circle to make the environment informal and more relaxed. Seat the hosts and the girls on floor cushions or around a large kitchen table. This ensures that the girls are able to face each other and become comfortable with their hosts and peers.
Provide healthy snacks such as homemade popcorn, fruit, whole-grain nachos or a veggie and dip platter. This makes a more inviting, special atmosphere and teaches the girls about good nutrition. Plan special potluck events where each teen brings a dish.
Invite the teen girls to make suggestions about issues that are important to them. This can be done directly in the group or confidentially through a suggestions box. Let the girls know that the hosts are available for private discussions as well.
- Keep all private discussions confidential and do not put any teen on the spot to answer a question or comment on the topic being discussed. Instead, encourage discussion by relaying personal anecdotes about yourself and others.
- Suggest professional help for any teen who is self-harming or engaging in dangerous behavior. Involve the parents if beneficial to the teen and encourage the teen to call a counselor or doctor, as needed.
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