Girls are awesome. They are passionate, freethinkers with minds of their own, but they can also be difficult to pin down and engage. As a girl grows from elementary to middle to high school, she hits emotional milestones that can make it difficult for the adults in her life to connect with her. We get it. But this doesn’t mean it’s impossible to make an impact in her life. Creating the kind of environment in which girls are unafraid to try new things and to be who they want to be starts with you – our volunteers!
Read through these guidelines and checkout our newly updated Volunteer Essentials webpage. We know that with a little effort and TLC you can get your girls to bond as a troop and with you as their leader!
Understand Their Age-Group
This is as simple as it sounds. Acknowledging where your girls are at developmentally and what they are experiencing as they mature will be a big help to them. Kids change so much over the course of a year, and with external factors like school, friends and family getting into the mix their lives can be pretty complicated. Using your troop meetings as a way to touch base and share your feelings as a group will not only help create a safe space for your girls, but also help you guide and mentor them! For a grade-level break down of what your girls are going through, checkout the “Understanding Healthy Development in Girls” tab on our Volunteer Essentials page.
Create a Safe-Space
The girls in your troop need a place that they feel like they can be themselves without fear of judgement and the responsibility relies on you to set the tone. You are the role model and mentor for your girls, this means that they will look to you for guidance and how to act in certain situations. Be mindful to recognize and support each girl as an individual. While it can be easy to lump groups of girls together as one because they are always with each other, remember that each girl is her own person. In order to create a safe space, you should also promote fairness and honesty. If you make a mistake, own up to it! This will show the girls that it’s okay to fumble and that forgiveness is plentiful if your honest. Girls can be great listeners, so help them open up and talk to each other if you notice an issue among them. This open line of communication not only allows issues to be resolved, but it builds trust between the girls and with you.
Girls of all ages are sponges ready to absorb the world of knowledge you have for them, but if you don’t communicate effectively it’s all for naught. Listen and open up to your girls, honesty will help you earn their respect and it will promote an open line of communication (just be mindful about what you are sharing with them). Real issues like relationships, peer pressure, school and money can be tough topics to discuss, but try not to shy away from them if your girls are initiating the conversation. If it makes you feel uncomfortable, just listen to your girls and then seek help from your council or other leaders. Another great way to connect with your girls is to take an active interest in their world. Bringing up their hobbies or current shows they are watching is a way for you to show them that you are listening, engaged and respect them. Teenage girls might have some additional obstacles to overcome as they are trying to figure out who they are and how they fit into the world and that’s okay. Just think of yourself as a partner, coach, or a mentor rather than a “leader” and engage them more with the decision making for the troop so they can feel like the young adults that they aspire to be.
Address Sensitive Topics
Once you gain your girls trust they will become an open-book and that’s great! But with great power comes great responsibility. While we encourage open conversations with your troop, please keep in mind that your role is that of a caring adult volunteer who can help girls acquire skills and knowledge in a supportive atmosphere, not someone who advocates a particular position. Our program is open to girls and families from a wide spectrum of faiths and cultures and ultimately it is up to the parents or guardians of your Girl Scouts to make decisions about their girls participation in a program or activity that might have a sensitive nature. Sometimes a girl might bring up a topic that may cause concern about the health and well-being of the girls in your troop. If there is any cause for concern you should bring it to the attention of their parent/caregiver or to the council so your Girl Scout can get the expert assistance she needs. For a list of signs that could indicate a girl needs expert help, checkout the “When Sensitive Topics come up” tab on our Volunteer Essentials page.
Keep Parents/Caregivers in the Loop
Parents and caregivers are vital to your Girl Scouts involvement and you should work on having a healthy and open line of communication with them. Holding a parent/caregiver meeting as your first troop meeting of the year is a great way to get reacquainted with your troop and introduce any new members. Although it is your responsibility to come up with the curriculum and guide your troop, parents can be a vital resource and window into the lives of your Girl Scouts. If you engage with your girls families, they might be more inclined to help out at programs, offer assistance when needed, and even give you ideas of what could be good for your troop. Collaboration is a great tool that is under-utilized when we feel ownership over something, so keep this in mind when getting parents involved. We all come from different walks of life and sharing our unique perspectives can help you give the best, most well-rounded experience possible for your Girl Scouts!