Every year around June time, I start another of my year-long Girls Journeying Together groups. A dozen or so 10-12 years olds sit in a circle in my sitting room nervously wondering how we will pass the afternoon.
We meet monthly, so they’ll get a sense of what monthly feels like, and we cover all manner of things over the year. Their needs and concerns help to determine their year’s programme. Over the year I provide the space for each girl to:
- dream into her future
- clarify her values
- learn about the changes that puberty brings
- discuss the pressures of peers, media, and parents
- prepare for her first period and support one another in their bleeding time
- get to know each other really well; well enough to dare to speak their innermost fears and heartfelt hopes
- (only if the time is right) talk of dating, safe sex, diets, drinking, drugs, cutting, exam pressures and other teen concerns
- share her experiences
- laugh and cry and dance and feast
- find mentors
- and in time become a mentor herself.
A year later we finish with a celebration and those dozen girls are full of affection for one another and feel well-prepared for what lies ahead.
“At first I didn’t think I’d like it, but it’s brilliant, we talk about things, really talk, so you realise that others feel the same way.”
“I’ve made friends for life I’d say.”
“I was nervous about growing up – I’m not now.”
“You can ask anything.”
“We’ve had loads of fun, and learned stuff but it hasn’t felt like learning.”
“It got me thinking about who I want to be - what I want to do with my life.”
Every girl needs a circle of women, and the company of other girls, with whom to learn about womanhood. Some girls are lucky to live in communities that naturally provide this female support. Many girls are not so fortunate. When families have busy lives, lived far from extended family, and children spend most of their time in the company of children, then a girls’ group can fill the gap.
I wish that coming-of-age groups were commonplace, then girls would expect it as their right, rather than needing their mothers to encourage them to try it out.
We focus on teaching our children algebra, tectonic plate movements, and what befell the wives of King Henry VIII, and then leave the fundamental issues of maturation up to chance chats with family, the modeling of soaps and films, and the immature influence of peers. We give swimming lessons before diving into the sea, and driving lessons are mandatory before taking to the roads solo – so why not insist on structured adult support in the preparation of our children for adulthood? Most religions and many tribes still recognise the importance of guiding our children safely towards adulthood, and offer them a rite of passage while they are actively engaged in this maturation process; but we have lost sight of it, blinded by the chase for qualifications. I feel sad to find myself in a culture that often values grades, awards, and medals over relationships, and developing a healthy sense of self.
The more ‘developed’ we become, the more we abandon our teenagers and leave them to invent their own idealizations for adulthood – and to make their own markers to prove their adulthood (often using drink, sex, driving, and other risk-taking).
Girls look to the women in their lives to give them a sense of what it is like to be a woman. The women they like, they emulate; and the women they don’t like, they strive to be different from.
Many girls find themselves with only one woman who knows them well, their own mother. If fortunate, a girl will also have a smattering of aunties, grandmothers, godmothers, cousins, friend’s mothers and mother’s friends who know her and care for her. She may also have a special teacher, tutor, or coach. Even then, many girls rarely have the opportunity of hearing women speak of their dreams, their passions, their relationships and their bodies. And yet, we want our girls to find their own futures, to know what is important to them, to discover what they love to do, to form firm friendships, and to like themselves well enough. Too often seeking these vital goals are left to chance, or left in the hands of schools, or the influence of social media.
Rites for Girls has an open trial session for any girl aged 10-12yrs living near Sussex who might be interested to join the next Girls Journeying Together group.
Girls’ Journeying Together
– a year-long exploration
with a small group of girls your age
Who? Pre-teen girls; aged 10-12yrs (in year 6 and 7)
When? Monthly, 3 hours at the weekend, starting in July.
Where? Forest Row, Sussex
When? Trial session with Mums: 2:30-4:30pm Sat 14th June 2014
I am a trained facilitator, youth guidance worker, counsellor, 5 Rhythms movement teacher, and a mother of three.
To book or ask more contact Kim 01342 810505 ☙ email@example.com
LIMITED SPACES – BOOK TRIAL NOW!
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Photo: 123RF by Lisa Young