Our first girls empowerment session held on Thursday July 19th was amazing! Girls from 6th, 7th and 8th grade came together ready to meet new friends and talk about issues they face as middle school girls. They started off the evening by dropping their phones into a basket at the door and then went on to create pictures describing their own personality traits and what girl power means to them. Then we sat down in a circle and used the pictures as we went introduced ourselves to each other. See a selection of their pictures below.
One by one, each girl introduced herself to the group and explained what girl power means to them. The group represented all types of girls, everyone showing respect for one another, listening intently to each other and sharing similar experiences. Girls’ comments included: “I’m not sure what I want to be when I grow up”, “I don’t really play sports”, “I want to be an actress: there is no plan B”, “I like lacrosse”, “I love to sing”, “I love playing the violin but I’m not good at it”, “my life is strange right now”, “I love unicorns, rainbows and sparkly things and free stuff!”, the list goes on but one thing rings true: each girl is truly unique, yet they face similar challenges as tweens and teens.
Our first topic of discussion was the phone basket, and wow did the girls have a lot to contribute! At DSU we’ve noticed there is a big focus on phones and texting. Our girls empowerment sessions will be phone free so girls can be in the moment, focus on each other and temporarily disconnect with outside influences. The girls were ready and willing to give their phones a rest and we talked about how texting is a challenging issue with girls today. Many girls have been hurt by friends who have sent mean texts and frequently experience problems that arise with misunderstandings and negative communications. Our high school mentors shared that they did not text when they were in middle school because only a few years ago, phones were not as prolific as they are today. Texting is just as new to them as it is to the younger girls. Even in high school, girls are still learning how to use this technology appropriately, often by trial and error. Everyone agreed that girls seem to feel more comfortable texting things that they would never say in person and this can cause a lot of trouble. Together, the girls and counselors came up with a set of rules to live by when texting:
1. Never text someone when you are angry
2. Think before you press send
3. Give your phone a rest each night and refrain from texting late into the night
4. If you are upset with a friend, call them and tell them how you feel instead of sending a text
5. If someone doesn’t immediately respond to a text, don’t take it personally (their battery could be dead, they may be traveling, their parents may have taken their phone away)
6. Do not take pictures of yourself and send them in a text
7. Do not send any private information about yourself or anything you do not want shared with other people
8. Ignore negativity! If someone says something negative about another person or friend, do not engage or say something nice instead.
9. If someone sends a mean message to you, simply do not reply, if you do, you just add fuel the fire.
10. If you are feeling angry and emotional, it can be helpful to write down your feelings in the moment – but – don’t press send! Save it and look at it the next day, you’ll be surprised at how differently you will feel and how you may have saved yourself embarrassment.
We concluded our discussion with some ideas about topics for upcoming sessions. The girls suggested more on cyber-bullying, anti-bullying/how to handle mean girls, dating and boys, body image and the media, age appropriate fun, fitness, nutrition, health and beauty.
With only a little time left for girly fun we ended the night by painting nails. Girls lined up patiently waiting for their turn with Olivia Anello who created some totally cool designs, and others grabbed a friend and gave each other manicures.
The girls left excited to come to our next session on Friday August 24th and were encouraged to invite friends. For this session we ask girls to think about their favorite female role models and to come prepared to describe and discuss what makes them good role models. If you or your daughter missed the first session, just come to the next one! To sign up, email firstname.lastname@example.org