Helping Teenage Girls Who Take on Parental Duties During the Pandemic
In my teen years, my friends and I took advantage of opportunities to make a little money by babysitting for our parents’ friends’ kids. That was a far cry from the reality of responsibility now thrust upon many teenage girls because of the pandemic.
The September 25th NY Times column In Her Words described the way the pandemic has affected the lives of young women, primarily girls of color—even those who didn’t get sick themselves with the virus. They took jobs outside the home to help support their family, they have taken on the care of elderly family members as well as of children—even infants and toddlers—so their parents (often single moms) could work. They have shopped, cooked, and cleaned—all while attempting to stay current with school online—but usually fall behind in their studies. These demands, more usually associated with teen girls in third-world countries, have taken a huge toll mentally, emotionally and physically. Here is an excerpt from the article that describe this damage:
“A survey of over 2,000 young people, published in June by the nonprofit organization America’s Promise Alliance, found that 78 percent of girls ages 13 to 19 reported in the past 30 days at least one sign of decreased mental health, such as feeling distressed or being unable to sleep, compared with 65 percent of boys. A Long Walk Home found in a survey of about 30 girls that nearly 70 percent reported increased anxiety and an inability to sleep in the last year. Twenty-seven percent reported having suicidal thoughts. Crittenton Services, an organization based in Washington, D.C., and Maryland that supports girls of color, found that out of the nearly 400 girls in its network, 63 percent felt stressed, and half had trouble sleeping, according to an internal survey that was shared with The Times.”
Young women have stepped up, showing that their participation is essential to the structures of family and society. It is my opinion that our government, educational institutions and corporate and private donors should now do what is necessary to support these young women. Programs or systems that can strengthen resilience and support the mental, physical and emotional needs of our children must be in place and funded.
To that end, bringing the Transcendental Meditation program into the communities and families would be very effective. The TM technique has been scientifically shown to be a solution to many of the challenges and problems facing teenage girls generally, let alone those who are pressed into adult responsibilities.
The Transcendental Meditation technique is a natural, simple, enjoyable process done sitting comfortably for about 15 minutes twice daily. Once instructed in the technique, a teenage girl experiences that her mind settles effortlessly to a quiet peaceful state in which the resources of the mind—intelligence, energy, creativity and organizing ability—can be tapped. At the same time, her body also settles down into a deeply restful relaxed state during which stress and fatigue dissolve. After each session of TM, she feels rejuvenated and relaxed physically, calm emotionally, and her mind is infused with greater clarity. These benefits are both immediate and cumulative.
Peer-reviewed published studies show that the TM technique reduces fatigue, anxiety, depression, insomnia, impulsivity, stress and stress-related disease. (For example, teenagers can have hypertension.)
TM improves focus, memory, grade point average and academic achievement. Research also shows benefits including increased happiness, creativity, stamina, and organizing ability along with improved relationships and self-esteem.
TM has been taught in schools in the USA and abroad. Most often, when schools have at-risk populations, the program is funded by private donors. This is a chance for everyone, from governmental agencies to individuals, to quickly intervene to support teenage girls in our country before a downward trajectory causes too much damage.
Arranging instruction in Transcendental Meditation for them is a way to provide our teens with the internal nourishment and support that will serve them now and all their lives.
About the Author
Janet Hoffman is the executive director of TM for Women Professionals in the USA.