Sometimes we need a helping hand to get through the hardest parts of girlhood. Thankfully, the Strong Girls of Inlailawatash have each other.
The Strong Girls are a group of Tsleil-Waututh First Nation girls aged 9-13. Funded by the Canadian Women’s Foundation, they meet weekly to foster healthy relationships and connect to their culture in a positive way.
We spoke to the girls’ group program directors about how they’ve seen the girls mentor and grow with each other to overcome failure.
What do you like most about girls’ group? What’s special or different about the time you spend together?
The moments I love the most are when I get to witness the girls be comfortable enough to really be themselves. Whether it’s a silly moment, or a brave, risk-taking moment, or sharing about their day, I’m reminded of how important this group is.
It’s special to have a place where the girls can just ‘be.’ After a long day of school, and the expectations that come with that, the fact that they show up and enjoy a two-hour group means that it’s really important to them.
I am always inspired by how resilient the girls are, even when experiencing huge challenges or devastating losses.
How do the girls support each other?
The girls are very good at supporting each other through humor – that’s often how they show love. When one girl is feeling down or having a hard day, they all surround each other and crack jokes to lighten the mood, and they bond through each other’s experiences and struggles.
They really look up to each other and appreciate when the leaders share with them during circle time, our check-in at the beginning of each group. We use a talking stick and allow each girl a chance to share about their day, and to answer a question that they come up with together.
How do they rely on you as mentors?
When it comes to healthy risk-taking – for example, when trying an activity such as rock climbing – I have seen the girls challenge and inspire each other to participate in something that may be out of their comfort zone.
As leaders, giving the girls our undivided, positive attention is one of the best ways to support them. You can clearly see the effect this has, and so we try to be intentional about encouraging them, calling out their successes, and building relationships.
One benefit to having a community-based girls group, with leaders who are from the community, is that the girls are building long-term connections with people who they have known their entire lives and are often their relatives. Girls’ group is a time to connect and bond in an intentional way, and there is potential for relationships to remain close and supportive for years to come, long after they age out of the group.
Failure can be fuel – with support from friends, we can learn from our mistakes and build confidence for our next try. How do you help girls overcome failure?
My advice for all young girls is to notice and acknowledge those moments of inner strength when they happen, and remember them for future challenges. To know that you have the strength, power, and skills to reach out for support or to find a way through difficulty means that you’re capable of doing that again and again with each new challenge that life brings.
As the girls build confidence and practice expressing themselves, my hope is that when failure or conflict arises in their life, they will be able to speak out and stand up for themselves. Finding healthy ways to express disappointment, anger, sadness, and joy is a skill that can follow them through adolescence and into adulthood.
When failure or conflict occurs within girls’ group, we encourage the girls to find healthy, creative ways to move through those upsetting moments.
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