No one wants their daughter hurt. This is both an evolutionary trait and a societal one: People prioritise the safety of women first. It’s not that they do not value men. It is just that there are hundreds, if not thousands of generations of evolution telling us to protect women.
Generally speaking, if you have a teenage daughter then she is probably physically safe. If there is a threat to her immediate safety, you are likely to recognise it. What is far harder to recognise is the trauma that she might have endured growing up.
You might be surprised to hear this. Why would that be surprising if you were there the whole time? Well, you probably weren’t there the whole time. She probably went to a preschool, an elementary school, a middle school, and any extracurricular events associated with them.
Even a parent who is there for their teenage daughter most of the time has to let them out into the world eventually. If she was hurt when that happened, she might feel responsible for her hurt and keep it from you to not burden you. She might also not understand what happened.
It is your job as a parent to break down that barrier of communication to make sure your daughter is alright. To help with that, here are 7 warning signs that your daughter may have been traumatized during that time.
Especially with women, who are so often accused of being emotional whenever their emotions do not fit in with other people’s expectations of them, it is critical to distinguish emotional outbursts from moments of heightened emotion, strong emotion, or independent emotion.
The key characteristic of an emotional outburst is a lack of control, and the easiest way to test a person to see if they are in control of their emotions (as opposed to their emotions controlling them) is to take a gauge of their goals and ability to listen. If your teenage daughter is displaying strong emotions, then start by asking them what their intentions are with such a display.
It doesn’t matter if they have a good reason or a bad reason. What matters is that they have any reason they can vocalise. An emotional outburst is unique in that the reason is related to the trauma reaction, which makes the request for motives impossible to answer.
Trauma will often create patterns of avoidance. These patterns might appear rational, but they come from a place of fear rather than a place of reason. A person has to operate under the assumption that they will get hurt. A traumatized person will view the possibility of getting hurt as so threatening that they avoid it altogether, crippling them in the process.
Every so often, ask what is on your daughter’s mind. Act as if you know when she’s preoccupied with something. If you are wrong and she is not, then laugh it off. But if she is, then you might find that she is hung up essentially reliving a traumatic moment.
Communicating about trauma is critical to resolving it. That doesn’t mean talking all the time or even stepping in to do anything. But it does mean acknowledging something is there, and sometimes listening to what your daughter has to say.
Issues with sleeping are common in teenage girls through no fault of their own, so this is hardly a direct way of diagnosing trauma. What you should be looking for is the cause of the lost sleep.
They might be lying in bed thinking dark thoughts and not realize that hours have passed. They might be stuck in directionless insomnia. These are the kinds of behaviours that signal trauma.
But they are just looking at Instagram under their covers? That doesn’t rule out trauma, but it is less likely than other causes of sleep issues.
Due to the societal expectation that girls receive attention rather than give it out, some girls develop differently when it comes to their social interactions than others. For this reason, you are not looking for whether or not your teenage daughter is shy or not. You are looking for whether or not she suddenly stops interacting with people who were previously her friends.
Friend groups are a common source of trauma for teenage girls.
- Trouble eating. While it is far from the only cause, trauma can be one of the many things that lead to an eating disorder in girls. Eating disorders are often assumed to be related to body image, but they can actually come about as the result of a great many things, including many kinds of trauma. If your daughter suddenly needs to eat less, investigate what might be causing that feeling.
- Severe anxiety. Despite what some teenagers will tell you, anxiety in the medical sense is not normal. If your teenage daughter cannot be around people without being afraid, then she might suffer from trauma. It is worth noting that the ‘people’ in question might be a specific group of people, such as men. It is important to be tactful in how you handle that kind of trauma. The last thing you want to do is learn that your daughter is anxious around men and try to ‘cure’ her through exposure. This will only result in her trauma being worse.
Traumatised teenage girls are one of the most common recipients of aid from BasePoint Academy. Due to the way society treats women, it is easy for a girl to feel powerless, particularly in her teenage years as her body starts getting treated like a commodity by society.
If you need any help with dealing with your teenage daughter’s trauma, seek professional help here: https://basepointacademy.com/
Ellen Diamond did her degree in psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. She is interested in mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.