THE ADOLESCENT GIRL
Adolescence, the critical period of the training of the boy and girl, presents a complexity of problems before which parents and teachers alike are often at a loss.
The adolescent period, the growing-up stage of the girl’s life, is physically the time of rapid and important bodily changes. New cells, new tissue, new glands, are forming. New functions are being established. The whole nervous system is keyed to higher pitch than at any previous time. Excessive drain upon body or nerve force at this time must mean depletion either now or in the years of maturity.
But, on the other hand, the keynote of the girl’s adolescent mental life is awakening. Her whole nature calls out for a larger, fuller, more intense life. Home, school, society, dress, all take on new aspects under the transforming power of the new sex life stirring and perfecting itself within. The world is beckoning to the emerging woman, and her every instinct leads her to follow the beckoning hand.
Now, if ever, the girl needs the influence and guidance of some wise and sympathetic woman friend. It may be—let us hope it is—her mother; or, failing that, her teacher; or, better than either alone, both mother and teacher working in sympathetic harmony.
[Illustration: Photograph by Brown Bros. Camp Fire Girls. Outdoor life is one of the best means of safeguarding the girl’s health]
The first care demanded for the maturing girl is the safeguarding of her health. School demands at this age are likely to be excessive under existing systems of instruction. In many ways the secondary school, in which we may assume our adolescent girl to be, merits the criticism constantly made, that it works its pupils too hard or, perhaps more accurately, that it works them too long. Nothing but the closest cooeperation between parents and teachers can afford either of them the necessary data for working out this problem. It can never be anything but an individual problem, since girls will always differ whether school courses do so or not, and adjustment of one to the other must be made every time the combination is effected. Some schools content themselves with asking for a record of time spent on school work at home. Many parents merely acquiesce in the girl’s statement that she does or doesn’t have to study to-night, and the matter rests. Other schools and other parents go into the question with more or less detail, but usually quite independently of each other in the investigation. It is only very recently that anything like adequate knowledge of pupils has begun to be gathered and recorded to throw light upon the home-study question.
School girls naturally divide into fairly well-defined classes: the girl who is overanxious or overconscientious about her work, the girl who intends to comply with rules but has no special anxiety about results, and the girl who habitually takes chances in evading the preparation of lessons. How many parents know at all definitely to which class their girl belongs?