Why Are Our Daughters So Anxious?

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By Dannah Gresh, founder of True Girl

In 2001 when my friend Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth penned the best-selling Lies Women Believe, it was plausible for her to believe that she might bring the message of Truth to teenage girls. As quickly as the book hit the shelves, women were writing to her to tell her that many of the lies they believed seemed to be rooted in their teen years. That’s when she invited me to join her in writing Lies Young Women Believe.

However, it never would have occurred to her back then to write a version of this book to help younger girls overcome lies. Girls weren’t on the front lines of the battle like teens were. We could not have imagined that the words Nancy used to describe a large percentage of adult Christian women—insecure, anxious, lonely, confused—would apply all-too-readily to the littlest of women almost two decades later. But so much has happened.

The advent of the word "tween" to define a child aged 8-12, did not occur without prolific changes in the environment within which you must raise your daughter. And with it, tween girls have been forced to grow up. Now, these "grown-up" words all-too-often describe the way they feel.

Insecurity Is A Result Of Marketing Products To Tweens That They Do Not Even Need

Insecurity strikes at the hearts of girls at younger and younger ages, especially in the area of beauty and body image because the culture preys upon women in this area. Consider the fact that when Marilyn Monroe was at the height of her sex symbol status, she was nearly thirty and her image was being used to peddle beauty products to adult women. Purveyors soon broadened the audience to include teens in the buying demographic by creating younger beauty icons. Within just the last ten years, we’ve seen beauty icons as young as thirteen rise to celebrity power. Their images are used to tell your daughter that she needs everything from lip gloss to padded bikini bras.

Today, 80% of tween girls—armed with their mom’s credit cards— turn toward artificial expressions of beauty in a quest to feel more secure[1]. To give this some perspective, more than half of 12-14 year olds use mascara[2]. What little girl is in need of mascara?

Buying a girl anything she wants doesn’t make her happier. It tends to leave her anxious and depressed. Author Juliet Schor, who studied the impact of today’s consumer-focused culture on childhood says, “Today’s average (that is, normal) young person between the ages of nine and seventeen scores as high on anxiety scales as children who were admitted to clinics for psychological disorders in 1957[3].”

And that was before social media.

Anxiety Is Clearly Linked to Social Media

Anxiety is the leading mental health issue among youth today, with clinicians and researchers both observing a significant rise[4]. The significant uptick began in 2007, one year after Facebook became available to anyone with an email address. When it comes to treating children and teens with anxiety, therapists blame social media.  

Of course, there are other contributors: academic pressure, great competition in sports and other things once considered “after-school-activities,” and friendship drama. But all of these are illuminated by the social media world where “friends” appear picture-perfect from their poreless skin to their perfect grades.  Add to that cyber-bullying that ranges from overt to passive-aggressive posts that exclude some, and you have a social petri dish that’s the perfect environment to grow anxiety.

It may be normal. But what is common is not always what is good. Something must be done to rescue our girls.

Confusion Rises As The Silence of Christian Parents Becomes A Megaphone To The Hearts Of Tweens

Confusion arises much earlier for today’s girls in the area of gender, marriage, and family. On one hand, the culture won’t stop talking about these things. On the other, Christian parents are afraid to bring them up. At least, that’s what they told me in focus groups recently.

Moms want to know how to address homosexuality biblically, given the fact that their daughters are exposed at younger and younger ages through “the neighbor across the street,” “her uncle who is married to a man,” and “her best friend at school who has two mothers.” Very few of us had moms who were faced with the question of whether or not to let their little girl visit the home of another little girl who has two moms.

And homosexuality is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to gender confusion. As I began to write Lies Girls Believe, Facebook had 56 gender options to choose from. Before we had our first draft complete, they simply changed it to male, female or (fill in the blank). This is presumably because they could not keep up with the evolution of the new sexual revolution in which transgender is just one of the dozens of options.

But not talking about it does not serve our daughters well. Our silence becomes a megaphone for the world’s views on sex and gender, and our girls grow more confused.

I could go on with words that neither of us wants to apply to any little girl—lonely, exhausted, angry, fearful! In an effort to keep their daughter from being statistics, many moms are leaning on best-selling books, counseling, mommy blogs, and popular speakers to help them. There’s often nothing wrong with those resources. In fact, I’ve used all of them to help me become a healthier woman and to raise whole children. They offer us understanding and good ideas, but on their own, they do not get to the heart of solving the brokenness in our families.

But we need more than just talking about the ruin that is occurring in tween girls. We need a solution. We need to understand why they are struggling and how to stop it.

For over two decades, I have been guiding teens and adult women through recovery of all manner of emotional trauma, addictions, and sinful patterns. I have helped them realize what lies they have believed and how to experience dramatic Truth encounters with God’s Spirit. It is always breathtaking to see Him at work.

This process works for younger girls too. And it’s time to begin to use it. The lies girls believe must be uprooted and replaced with God’s Truth. This is the skill I will help your daughter learn in the pages of Lies Girls Believe.

I’m not talking about a mystical formula that will make all her tween drama disappear. There won’t be any shortcuts past mean girls, school stress, or family pain. Life is hard. But together, you and I can equip your daughter to walk through the realities of life—academic stress, peer pressure, social media angst, getting cut from a team, and even family brokenness—in freedom and true joy.

Your daughter is being lied to. Today’s girls face a number of challenges we never dealt with at their age. From skyrocketing anxiety rates to bullying on social media, the Enemy’s lies are everywhere. 

How can you help your daughter experience freedom in the midst of a culture that lies to her? Equip her with Truth!

You and your daughter are invited to join me for the Holy Girl Walk while we memorize Psalm 91 together. LEARN MORE HERE.


Author Bio

Dannah Gresh is the founder of True Girl, a ministry that brings moms and daughters closer to each other and closer to Jesus. True Girl provides connection experiences through books, online Bible studies, and live events. You can learn more about her at dannahgresh.com.  

[1] https://www.mintel.com/press-centre/beauty-and-personal-care/beauty-is-childs-play-80-of-us-tweens-use-beauty-and-personal-care-products

[2] https://www.mintel.com/press-centre/beauty-and-personal-care/beauty-is-childs-play-80-of-us-tweens-use-beauty-and-personal-care-products

[3] Schor, Juliet B., Born To Buy: The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture (New York: Scribner, 2004) 13.

[4] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2018/05/10/why-kids-and-teens-may-face-far-more-anxiety-these-days/?utm_term=.7ca39593bedc



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