Signs Your Teen May Need To See A Counselor

Bored-teenage-girl-on-couch-jpgVery often I have parents ask me if I think their teen needs counseling. They will tell me about different behaviors they have observed and pretty much ask me if it is “normal”.

The advice I normally give is, if you think your teen needs counseling, they probably do. I have seen more instances of teens not receiving mental health help or receiving it once the issue has gotten out of hand, then I have of parents bringing their teens in for counseling when they are perfectly “normal”.

Don’t get me wrong, I have seen parents who have brought their teens in for counseling only for me to soon realize that it was the parent that actually needed help, and not their teen.

In any case, it never hurts to schedule a session for your teen if you think they may need help. A trained mental health professional will be able to tell you in a couple of sessions or so if your teen needs further help or if the issue extends further into the family system.

Some signs that your teenager may need counseling

  • Mood swings– Yes we all know that teenagers have mood swings. It is definitely part of that developmental age, but as a parent, you should have a general baseline of your teens mood swings. If their mood swings seem extreme or are way outside of your teens normal mood swings (too depressed, too elated, too labile, etc.) trust your gut, it may be worth looking into with a trained professional.
  • Self-medicating– Some teens will try to hide or control their issues, especially when they don’t understand why they think or feel a certain way. Many will turn to drugs, alcohol, sex, self-mutilation, or eating disorders just to name a few, in an effort to make themselves feel better. If you notice your teen involved in any of these things it’s almost a guarantee that they are trying to mask something else, that could be anything from low self-esteem to sexual abuse and it’s worth investigating.
  • Changes in friends– many times when a teen is suffering from a mental illness it will impact their ability to maintain healthy friendships. They may push friends away or become too clingy. You may see some of your teens friends start wanting to avoid them or your teens choices of friends may drastically change.
  • Changes in school performance– is another sign that your teen may be suffering from some form of mental illness. It’s generally hard to concentrate and focus when one is in a poor mental state and this can affect a teens grades and/or conduct.
  • Physical symptoms– if your teen suddenly starts to care less about their appearance, stops taking showers, gains or loses a lot of weight or starts complaining of psychosomatic symptoms like backaches, headaches or stomach aches, these are all possible signs that your teen is dealing with something they can’t handle alone.
  • Behavior changes– behavior like mood can change a lot during the teenage years, but for the most part, if you teens starts presenting as a totally different person to you then it may indicate either a mental illness or substance abuse issue.

Being a teenager is hard and most teens will try their best to hide their problems from their parents, which is why it is imperative that parents are attune with their teenagers. Today it’s even easier for teens to hide how they really feel through social media so parents have to be vigilant to monitor their social media pages as well in order to gain insight into what is really going on with their teen.

With the appropriate help, all mental and emotional issues can be treated and managed so if you  have to ask the question, “Is this normal”, chances are you should contact a qualified mental health professional for a further evaluation.

 

Motivating Your Unmotivated Teen Part 2: Understanding Change

Teen AngstIn part one we started discussing the importance of having a good relationship with your adolescent in order to help facilitate motivation and change.

Often times, too many parents try to motivate their child instead of developing motivation as a function of their relationship with their child. That means that you have to serve as a source of motivation in someway.

You can’t expect your teenager to want to do something different if you haven’t demonstrated motivation and change behavior in your own life, or if your efforts to motivate them include constant nagging and criticism.

Sometimes that is all that is needed, for a teenager to be in a relationship with other people that are inspiring.

For example, I have a running partner who is a much better runner than I am, yet running with him has motivated me. He encourages me sometimes, but for the most part, I run to not disappoint him and because I enjoy his company. In the process, I became a better runner which motivated me to continue running. The key factor in that is the relationship with my running partner that helped start the process and the motivation to continue it.

It would have been nearly impossible for me to find motivation in our running relationship if he was always cancelling or if he showed up just to show me up. The same principles apply for parents trying to help their teens find motivation. They have to have a motivating relationship.

Motivation Is Change Oriented Movement.

That is the simplest definition of motivation. This definition focuses on motivation as a matter of change that is directed towards behavior, not thinking. When it comes to motivation, it’s often more important to focus on changing the behavior and not the thinking, but changes in thinking generally follow changes in behavior.  But why do people change? What makes people, especially teenagers, decide to do something different? What factors and circumstances have to come into place to facilitate change?

Why Do Adolescents Change? 

Many people believe that people change to avoid discomfort. Often however, unpleasant feelings and experiences actually decrease the chances of someone taking action, which is another reason punishments often don’t have the long term effect they were intended to have.

There are three conditions that need to be in place for change to happen:

1. The change has to be associated with intrinsic value.

Even external consequences that have intrinsic value can work, but the teen has to find intrinsic value in the change in order for it to occur and be long lasting. You have to have a relationship with your child that allows you to discover what is intrinsically valuable to your child. Trying to do that through punishments and groundings is usually futile.

2. Your teen has to be able, willing and ready to change.

This is where a lot of parents fail, not understanding that their teenager won’t change until they are capable of making the change, are willing to make the change and then is willing to make the change. You can not push your teenager into making a change they are unwilling or not ready to make, all you are going to get is defiance and discord.

Change can not be forced on anyone, no matter how important you think the change may be or how much it makes sense. Change will only come when your teenager is willing, ready and capable of making the change required.

3. The teenager has to be in a safe, empowering and accepting environment.

Your teen’s primary environment is their relationship with you, which means you have to provide a safe, empowering and accepting relationship if you want to see your teenager make positive changes.

The number one factor in providing this type of environment/relationship is having unconditional positive regard, where your teen can feel free to express their thoughts and emotions without criticism. This doesn’t mean that you will tolerate uncivil or inappropriate behavior from your child, but it does mean that you will not try to change their thoughts.

Communication is also key in developing the type of environment necessary for change.

This means having open, non-judgmental conversations about the problem and sometimes this alone can be enough to facilitate the motivational and change processes. This can be hard for parents to do because they are used to talking, dictating and teaching, when listening to their teenager is often more  productive.

Your teenager wants to be listened to. Dictating to them what they need to do is usually a sure way to kill motivation, not induce it.

Accept your teenager for who they are.

By accepting your teen for who they are, you make room for motivation and change. If however, you criticize your teen for who they are, they are more likely to actually feel unmotivated to make any changes you would like to see them make. Acceptance facilitates change, but it doesn’t guarantee it.

Acceptance doesn’t mean that you approve of your teenager’s behavior, it just means that you are not going to criticize or judge them. There is a right time for useful criticism that we will discuss in another segment.

Next post we will discuss indecisiveness and the stages of change which are important to understand when trying to understand the change process.

Motivating Your Unmotivated Teen Part One: Understanding Motivation

Lazy-teenager-001The other day while counseling a fifteen year old boy with very little motivation, failing grades and a poor attitude that is driving his mother crazy, I found myself thinking, how can I motivate him to care about his life and future.

I realized immediately after I had that thought that I was making a critical error in my thinking, one that millions of parents make every single day. I was trying to figure out a way to motivate this young man, to make him want to change, when in actuality, we can’t make anyone change.

The subject of change is a very interesting one, as we all change multiple times throughout our lives and usually know when change is needed, but when it comes to working with adolescents, they often seem unwilling to change even when we as adults know that making a change for the better would be beneficial to them.

This young man’s mother had tried many different things to make him change, including giving him incentives like allowances or extra time playing his video games, to punishments such as taking away privileges and scolding him.

She has made the same mistakes that many parents make.

External Consequences Rarely Work

Applying external consequences works on some adolescents, but not on all, and even when they don’t work, parents continue to try them and are frustrated when they don’t work.

Think about the high recidivism rate among criminals or the way countries like Cuba and North Korea seem to thumb their noses at the world even in the face of increased sanctions. External consequences, positive or negative, rarely work.

If you have been trying punishments or rewards with your adolescent and aren’t getting the results you were hoping for, it’s time to start thinking about doing something different.

Talking Sense Into Them

Another thing parents often do that can backfire is that they hound their adolescent, trying to lecture them into change. Usually it’s with good intent, but lectures can actually have the opposite effect of what they were intended to do.

When parents lecture their teens, they tell them how smart they are, how talented they are, etc., yet if the teen doesn’t believe this about him or herself, they are usually going to think that their parents either:

  1. don’t really know them, which means that their parents will lose some credibility with their teen, or
  2. the teen will feel even worse for wasting their talents or intelligence and become even less encouraged and motivated.

Think about listening to a motivational speech. They usually motivate you for a short while or they demotivate you, making you feel incapable of accomplishing what you are being told you can.

These external influences work even less if the teen is already unmotivated, overwhelmed, disheartened, demoralized or anxious in the first place when it comes to school and/or their future.

Instead of lecturing, it’s good to listen more to what your adolescent values, feels and thinks about themselves and what they want. By listening more, you will learn and understand your teenager better so that when you do talk to them, you won’t come off as  patronizing.

You Can’t Motivate Anyone or Make Anyone Change

Over the years I’ve helped many adolescents change, stop using drugs, start making better grades and even graduate and go off to college, but I can’t say I motivated or changed any of them.

I know that what is going to motivate the young man I am working with, just like the teens I’ve helped in the past,  isn’t going to come from me. I know that I can only help to facilitate change and motivation, but I can not make him change or to become motivated.

Like most parents, his mom thought that she could motivate him to change. That if he got motivated, he would do the work, but that is not how motivation tends to work.

We rarely get motivated and then do something, but instead start doing something, like the outcome of what we are doing and then get motivated to continue doing it.

Think about when you are cleaning your house or trying to lose weight.

You may “feel” motivated to clean or lose weight, but usually once you see the house start looking a little cleaner, or the weight falling off, you get motivated to continue. That’s where the bulk of the motivation comes from. We do something and then get motivated.

For instance, if I waited until I was motivated to workout, I would rarely workout. More than half the time I don’t feel like working out, but I force myself to go to the gym and once there, I usually find motivation from seeing other people working out, or once I start my work out I just feel motivated to workout harder.

Your teenager may not be motivated to study, but if he or she sees their grades go up from studying, they will probably become motivated to continue studying.

Doing Something Different

So I know that I can’t motivate this young man and his mom had been trying unsuccessfully for years to motivate him. What we can do however is to try getting him to do something different that will hopefully inspire motivation from within.

Intrinsic motivation is far more powerful and long lasting than extrinsic motivation.

Parents often waste a lot of time trying to get their teenagers to change the way they think, and I too often do the same as part of cognitive behavioral therapy, but when it comes to motivation, this isn’t usually the most effective way to bring about change. Instead, what we want to do is try to change their behavior, at least to get the desired behavior started in hopes that doing something different will elicit motivation and thus change the way they think.

You never know where motivation is going to come from.

I once asked a teenager to try to study for one hour a day and one hour only (he had been studying none at all). By studying one hour a day, he managed to get a “C” on an exam when he had gotten “D’s” and “F’s” on all previous exams. His teacher then complimented him on his “C” and so did a girl he liked. He then started studying more than an hour a week and his grades rose to “A’s” and “B’s”.

His parents were elated at my “ability to motivate” their son, but I knew that all I did was move him in the direction of the desired behavior and the motivation came from himself and his world. Once he saw the results of his behavior, the motivation followed.

It’s important to have the type of relationship with your teen that encourages motivation. We’ll discuss more of that in part two as well as understanding change and the conditions that facilitate change in teenagers.

note: when I discuss the topic of teens, I often say parents, but this applies to anyone who has a teen in their life, no matter if they are family members, students or if you are a mentor in anyway. 

Your Teenager Needs and Wants Your Guidance

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If you are a parent of a teenager, you probably have worried at one point in time about the many issues that face them including drugs, alcohol and tobacco use, dangerous driving, sexual activity, school, peer and social issues.

You’ve probably also worried about losing the influence you have over your teen as they start trying to branch out and find their own identity in the world.

We all know that teenagers face many challenges and changes in the world, and many teenagers like to act as if they can face and deal with these challenges alone.

As a matter of fact, many teens may actually believe that they don’t need any help, but as adults that care about the teens in our lives, we know that’s not always the case.

Teens need guidance. Teens actually want (although they may never admit to it) your help and guidance (just as they actually want rules and limitations).

As a parent, you may think that once your child becomes a teenager, you can sort of step back and let them grow up on their own, stepping in only when they get into trouble, but that is the wrong approach.

Your job as a parent isn’t over, it’s just changing.

Many parents who think like what I just described above, end up with spoiled kids who take no real responsibility for their lives and their actions.

They often believe that they are entitled to many things others have to work hard for and end up becoming young adults and adults with a host of intra and interpersonal problems.

There is some good news however.

If you watch the news or work with a certain population of teens as I do, it’s easy to think that teens today are worse than teens have ever been in history, but that’s actually not true.

Compared to their parents generation, teens today are less likely to become pregnant, smoke, use drugs and alcohol, drop out of school, or commit a violent crime.

They are more likely to volunteer and explore their spiritual side than ever. They are also more tolerant and are more likely to have friends of different races, socio-economic status, religion and ethnic groups.  They are also more likely to say tey have positive relationships with their parents.

All the hard work society has put into improving teens is paying off, but not without the help and involvement of parents.

Research shows that teens want and expect their parents to play key roles in their lives. They want advice and guidance and they remember your wise words, even when they act as if they are not listening.

The troubled teens I work with usually come from households where they are lacking parenting or have a parent or parents that don’t know how to be parents. Some are just “bad” parents while others are too busy with their own lives to actively parent their teens.

Despite all the good news about teens, the fact is, the dangers are still there. Any parent can attest to that. If they weren’t, there would be no need for my services  and I and all the counselors I know who work with teens, are largely overwhelmed with the number of teens that need counseling.

The problems facing teens are often similar and yet different for each one, and some may surprise you.

Like the fact that rural teens tend to have more drug and alcohol problems than urban teens, and that 30% of high school teens reported driving with someone who has been drinking at least once in the last month.

The teens years are much like when your child first learned to walk. Remember how they would look for something to hold onto such as a table or your leg to help steady themselves?

Sometimes they even freaked out when they couldn’t find something to hold on to, but you were usually their to help guide and protect them and make sure that they didn’t hurt themselves.

Although you stayed close enough to help them not hurt themselves if they started to fall, you also gave them enough room to learn and practice their new abilities and watched with joy as they grew in confidence from crawling, to walking, and eventually running.

Adolescence is very similar.

Your teen needs you to be there as they try to find themselves in the world, or they will find something else to hold onto just as they did as toddlers learning how to walk.

If you are not there for them to hold on to, they will potentially find drugs, alcohol, sex, bad influential friends, crime, you name it.

If you are lucky they will find good friends, healthy and safe adults, teachers, counselors, etc., but you want to be the person who guides your child.

You want to be the person that helps your child navigate through the barriers, which means you have to be close enough to give advice and to answer their questions honestly, but far enough away to allow them to start making and learning from their own decisions.

The adolescence are an exciting and scary part of life. Your teens are changing and growing and although they may start to look like adults, their decision making, risk/reward system are far from fully developed, so they still need you to be their for them, or they will look for and find something/someone else, good or bad.

I Want To Have A Light-Skinned Baby: The Affects Of Colorism On Black Adolescent Females

ts-134028063-african-american-girl-school-istock-14259556-dean-mitchellToday in a small group of teenage girls that consisted of one Asian-Haitian-American female, one Haitian-American female and one African-American female,

seemingly out of nowhere, the Haitian-American (a chestnut complected girl) blurted out,

“I date White boys because I want to have a light-skinned baby.”

She didn’t say that she wants to marry a loving man and have healthy children, but that she wants to have a light-skinned baby.

Before I could comment, the African-American girl in the group (she’s about copper complected) quickly agreed with her (although her current boyfriend is deep chestnut complected), that she too wanted light-skinned babies.

I then turned the the Asian-Haitian-American girl and asked her if she too wanted to have light-skinned children. She replied with the sensible answer, that she didn’t care how her kids came out. The other two girls quickly jumped in and said, “That’s because she is already light-skinned.”

I was shocked by their statements. Not because it was the first time I had ever heard Black teens make that comment, but because just on Sunday night I had watched CNN’s Who is Black in America with Soledad O’Brien, which explored colorism and identity in the Black community.

Some of the things that stuck out to me during the show, was how some darker skinned Blacks often did not like their skin tone and wanted lighter skin and how some lighter skinned Blacks didn’t want to identify with being Black at all.

These were more the exception than the rule, but a common enough trend to cause deep contemplating for not only Black people, but other people of color and those who teach, counsel or mentor people of color.

After watching that thought provoking show, I was a bit alarmed to have two of my teenage students basically say, “I don’t like my complexion and don’t want to have kids that look like me.”

I could go into the many different theories behind this sort of thinking, including brainwashing by the media, European standards of beauty and what is called Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome, but those are all too extensive topics to cover here, but I will write about those if there is a desire to hear about them.

My main concern, being that this is a psychology/counseling blog, is the affects this type of thinking has on these teenage girls self-esteem, self-value and self-worth.getty_rm_photo_of_africanamerican_teen_girl_in_mirror

When Black girls make comments like, “I want to have a light-skinned baby”, they are basically consciously or unconsciously rejecting vital parts of their self and their identity.

What they are saying at the most basic level is, “I don’t like my color, it is undesirable. I don’t like my hair, it is ugly. I want to make sure that my child comes out with lighter skin so that they will be prettier and better than I am.”

There is no way that a person with this type of latent thinking, can truly feel good about herself, her family or those that look like her.

This is a form of self-hate that she probably isn’t even aware she is influenced by, yet it shows up daily in her life through automatic thoughts, the way she feels about herself and the way she interacts with her world.

I keep saying she, but Black males are also affected by this.

Many Black males, especially athletes, entertainers and rappers quickly gravitate to and praise lighter skinned Black women, White women or women of other races. This sends a message to both young Black men and women.

To young Black men it says that you have to have a light-skinned Black, Hispanic, White or other woman on your arm to truly show you are successful or have “made it”. To darker skinned Black women, it says that you are ugly and undesirable. It says to light-skinned girls that you are coveted, not for your uniqueness, personality or intelligence, but for your appearance.

It’s sickening to me because most of these people are operating unconsciously under the influences of our countries painful history of racism. They have been brainwashed and don’t even know it because it started at such a young age.

It is hard for a people to feel good about themselves collectively, succeed collectively and grow collectively when there are so many of us that don’t feel comfortable in our own skin.

I believe this causes an increase in a multitude of issues including academics, violence, substance abuse and mental illness. stock-footage-an-angry-sad-girl-shows-her-frustration-black-and-white

Colorism doesn’t only affect Black people, but most people of color around the world who are influenced by European standards.

There have been many studies on the length some Hispanic cultures have gone through to guarantee that darker genes don’t enter (contaminate) their gene pool, so much so, that some families insisted on cousins marrying cousins.

In Brazil, before the rise of a pro Afro-Brazilian movement, many Black Brazilians didn’t identify as Black, and preferred to be identified as mulatto. Brazil even went through a period of “White washing” a few decades ago where the government was afraid that Brazilians were too African/dark-skinned and aggressively urged Europeans to migrate to the country to help lighten the face of Brazil.

Being identified as Black, around the world, has a very negative connotation behind it and many people try to escape that by denying they are Black all together if possible, preferring to be called Latino, Dominican, Puerto Rican, or whatever their nationality, despite their obvious African heritage.

I am not an expert on this subject from the Latino point of view, but I would refer you to the actress Zoe Saldana, who is a Dominican-American and proudly calls herself a Black woman. And the Dominican-American author Junot Diaz who talks frequently about colorism in the Dominican community in his works.

In America, at least in the Black community, we seem to have to face and deal with colorism more often, most likely because we are only about 13% of the population and have such a long history of racism and prejudice.

I told these young girls not to date a guy because of the color of his skin or his potential to help her have lighter-skinned children with “good hair”, but to date a guy because he respects her, loves her and treats her like a queen.

This post is not about race, but it’s about how this type of thinking negatively affects many aspects of these girls lives.

These girls are all in counseling because of anger, self-esteem and depression problems. If I didn’t like my skin complexion, the texture of my hair or my self, I would feel ugly, worthless, angry and sad all the time too.

I will continue working with these girls on accepting and loving themselves and plan on showing them this video (below) during our next meeting, in hopes that it will help open up their eyes to some of the subliminal messages they have been receiving about themselves.

The video is only about ten minutes, if you have the time, take a look at it and tell me what you think. It talks about the Clark Doll Experiment, but it goes deeper with a personal touch.

One Mother’s Experience with Bipolar Disorder and the Importance of Support Groups for Caregivers

The other day I was fortunate to have the opportunity to speak with a former client’s mother about her experiences dealing with her now 19 year old daughter, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of 8.

This girl from what I knew of her was extremely unstable, as could be expected from a teenager suffering from bipolar disorder.

Unlike other people suffering from bipolar disorder, teenage girls tend to be even more fickle when you factor in the normal hormones of teenagers as well as social pressures that make even some non-bipolar teens act and feel erratic.

This girl was prone to bouts of depression, mania, impulsivity and explosive anger.

At home her mom had done everything she was supposed to do to support her child including psychotherapy, family therapy and medication, but her daughter was still a hand-full.

When she was in her manic states she tended to have anger directed towards her mother and would at times try to get physical with her and had to be hospitalized several times for suicidal/homicidal ideations.

Her mother tried all she could to pacify her daughter, including painting her room the pretty purple she wanted, only to come home one day and find nearlyevery inch of that wall covered in permanent marker with words directed towards her mother such as “bitch”, “whore” and “I hope you die”.

On top of that she was extremely needy, wanting to be up under her mom 24/7 to the point that she got angry whenever her mom left her and would tear up the house or refuse to go to school.

When she was depressed she would self-mutilate and attempt to kill herself. Her mother would be afraid to leave her alone.

“My biggest fear, even today, is that I will come home and find her dead”, the mother told me.

The biggest thing this mother did that made the most difference was getting educating herself on her daughter’s illness and counseling for herself and joining a support group.

Support groups are invaluable resources that often aren’t utilized enough by those living with or taking care of people with mental illnesses or substance issues.

Through counseling and the support group she learned that she was not alone, that many other parents were on the same roller coaster ride she was on.

She also learned how to change the way she had been dealing with her daughter.

If what you are doing isn’t getting you the results you desire, you have to try something different.

She started accepting that her daughter was going to have good days and bad days, and sometimes within the same day. She also had to understand her role and limitations as the mother of a child with bipolar disorder.

She had to accept that some days she might feel like giving up, or not care when her daughter threatens to hang herself, and that doesn’t make her a bad mother, but it is a sign that she needs to take a break, regroup and seek support herself.

At the end of our reunion I was happy to see that a mother, who just a couple of years ago who was so flustered, angry and exhausted, had turned into a woman not only surviving, but thriving with a daughter suffering from bipolar disorder.

Her and her daughter are doing better, but they are still taking it one day at a time.

Understanding Teenage Girls: Motivations and Psychological Meanings in Relating to Males

The other night I happened to catch a television reunion of the reality show Love & Hip Hop Atlanta.

I stared at the screen in not so much as shock as pity as I watched four different women vie for the love and affection of two guys who treated them more as if they women were merely whores, and the guys were their pimps.

The guys seemed to think the heartache and embarrassment they caused these women by their ongoing cheating, lies and manipulations were funny, while the women basically said that no matter how bad they were being treated, they weren’t going to leave their “man”.

One said it was because of good sex, money and furthering her her music career. Another said it was for love and yet another said it was because she had a child with the guy.

To me, none of these were reasons to stay with a man who obviously saw them as being little more than sexual toys to be used and abused.

Still, this got me to thinking.

Working with teenage girls I am always keenly aware of some of the internal conscious and unconscious motivations that effect their decisions, especially in relation to dating, sex, and self-esteem.

As a girl learns about sex, she is also learning about other things such as giving and receiving affection, self-worth and what she means to others.

She also learns about trusting and honesty (or dishonesty) through the ways she is first introduced to sex, especially through the ways she is protected or not protected from being exploited.

“I learned about sex from my dad. I never had a chance for my first time with my boyfriend. Who knows, maybe I [would have] wanted to wait until I got married. But no, I never got to have that chance. I don’t even remember the first time… I feel it ruined my life.”  -Anonymous Teenage Girl, Young Poor and Pregnant: The Psychology of Teenage Motherhood by Judith Music

Shame, fear and guilt are also valuable lessons, as they will (if she is fortunate) help her learn how to keep herself from situations and feelings that may be too painful for her to deal with physically or emotionally.

When these life lessons are learned and experienced in ways that inappropriately shape her sexuality developmentally, they are likely to have far reaching consequences through out her life in the way she perceives her world and those in it.

This effects such a major part of who she is that it also effects who she thinks she can become, what she is capable of and her ability to show and receive love as well as her ability to take control of her destiny.

For girls who grow up in disadvantaged situations, inappropriate sexual socialization is usually the final breaking point to other risk factors such as poverty, unstable family environment, fatherlessness and lack of appropriate nurturing, that already have made this girl vulnerable to men (and teenage boys) looking to exploit her.

This added with social isolation from other people (outside of her family and community) and institutions, becomes a recipe for disaster (often disadvantaged girls are only exposed to people in their immediate communities where important social services are either absent or insufficient).

Social isolation and psychological vulnerability mean that many disadvantaged young women will be controlled by their relations to men not only in the bedroom, but also in the classroom, the street and eventually even the work environment.

“The adolescent female’s sense of self in relation to males is the internal representation of her past experiences with men and- perhaps equally important- of her mother’s roles and relationships to those and other men.”  -Judith Musick

It’s sad to see teenage girls who grow up with a damaged sense of self because of their past relationships to men either directly or vicariously.

These young girls often turn into teen mothers, get stuck in poverty, abused by men, single mothers with a multitude of children by different fathers, abuse drugs, or get caught up in one of various avenues of the sex world such as prostitution.

It’s important that we protect these young girls as much as possible from being exploited and abused, physically and mentally. It is also important that we help build their self-esteems, educate them and teach them the their value is priceless and doesn’t depend on a boy’s, a man’s, or anyone else opinion of her.