Girls’ groups – what’s the point?

“I’m not paying money for my daughter just to hang out with a bunch of girls – she does enough of that already.”

Why does it feel fine to spend money on flute lessons, on extra maths, on brownies and ballet, but not on personal development for our children?

In life, what is going to help more – a strong and comfortable sense of self, deep relationships, and time spent considering future goals, or grade 8 violin and a string of dancing certificates.  I cherish the arts, and self-knowledge can be found there too, but my heart goes out to all those girls who tear from one after-school activity to the next with barely a moment to stuff down a snack bar and carton of juice.

I feel sad to find myself in a culture that values grades, awards, and medals over relationships, and developing a healthy sense of self.

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So here’s the point of having girls’ groups.  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 they strive to be different from the women they don’t like.

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.

Far better is for every girl to have 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.

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How does a girls’ group work?

One or two women with group work skills find a private place to meet, and gather six to twelve girls of similar age together and provide a 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
  • (when 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 become (in time) mentors themselves.

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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 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 diplomas and pay checks.

The more ‘developed’ we become, the more we abandon our teenagers and leave them to invent their own idealizations for adulthood – and make their own markers to prove their adulthood (often using drink, sex, driving, and other risk-taking). 

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A girls’ group can be run by skilled youth workers, or by mothers themselves with a little guidance.  I can help.  We can support one another by hearing how others are preparing their daughters.

Why not start now? Share your experiences and questions right here!

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Posted on 11 June 2013
Musings: Coming of age, Parenting girls, Parenting teenagers, Rites of passage
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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