Whether it’s on the playground or at the bus stop, a common topic of conversation among parents is how challenging it has become to raise young girls. If it seems that your daughter is dealing with social and emotional issues at a much earlier age than you did, or that there are five-year-old “mean girls“ in kindergarten, it’s not just your imagination!
“I don’t remember so many challenges at such a young age when I was growing up: peer pressure, cliques, gossip, cattiness, depression, etc.,“ says Lisa Friedlander, a parent of two girls, ages 11 and 6, and cofounder of Activity Rocket, an online resource for locating enrichment activities and camps for kids.
The good news is that there are several strategies you can implement to bolster your daughter’s confidence and give her a firm grasp on essential moral values. One way is to get her involved in a positive organization with an emphasis on character development. Says Friedlander, “In my experience, the best way to keep your girls from getting trapped within these negative forces is to keep them busy with enrichment activities and/or sports. Let them discover what they love and then focus on one or two things that bring them nothing but joy.“
J. J. Newby, a northern Virginia parent and blogger at Caffeine and a Prayer, has a daughter who just finished her first year in American Heritage Girls. “One of the things we love most about this group is the way they emphasize the importance and instill the love of volunteering and service beginning at the kindergarten level. Additionally, part of the program’s structure includes older girls mentoring and teaching the younger girls. This teaches the older girls valuable skills in leadership, planning and kindness, and provides the younger girls with role models closer to their own age who can ‘look out for them’ outside the troop at school and in the community.“
The community element resonates with Girl Scout Service Unit Manager and Troop Leader 3147, Lisa Jackson. “Community service is important for many reasons,“ says Jackson. “Children need to understand that they are part of a bigger world and their contribution to their community matters. When a young girl volunteers, it teaches her to have compassion for others who are less fortunate then she is.“ Indeed, much of the cattiness and hurtful behavior among girls might be eliminated once compassion is introduced.
If you’re considering this type of activity for your daughter, take a look at the list below of organizations with solid reputations, along with descriptions from their websites. Generally, Newby says, “These organizations are the incubators for the civic leaders and community stewards of tomorrow.“ Fortunately for parents nationwide, there is no shortage of options. For example, Friendlander remarks: “As the cofounder of Activity Rocket, I see every day all of the incredible opportunities that exist for our girls in the D.C. Metro area. There is something for every girl to find her ‘inner girl power.’“
Girls Scouts of the USA
In Girl Scouts, girls are able to make friends, embark on new adventures and realize the power of girls in a fun and safe atmosphere. Growing strong and confident girls who are skilled leaders is a central focus of the organization; this is emphasized through team-building activities and community service.
Girls on the Run
This group is by far the most popular new kid on the block when it comes to girls’ organizations.Girls on the Run® fosters positive emotional, social, mental, spiritual and physical development in girls ages eight to thirteen years old through running programs and workouts. The goal is to prevent girls from engaging in at-risk activities as they mature.
Girls Inc. inspires all girls to be strong, smart, and confident with education programs that encourage them to rise up to challenges. Key programs include: math and science education, pregnancy and drug abuse prevention, media literacy, economic literacy, adolescent health, violence prevention, and sports participation.
Boys & Girls Clubs of America
As members of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, girls learn to become responsible young women and caring citizens, and acquire leadership skills. The mentorship program is a key component, allowing adults to serve as inspirational role models and valuable support systems to the youth.
Girlstart provides Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education programs for girls kindergarten through twelfth grade. This refreshing focus on STEM helps to develop interest in STEM electives, majors, and careers.
Girls for a Change
Girls for a Change (GFC) empowers girls to create social change by completing projects that tackle issues girls face in their own communities. Parents will appreciate the program’s focus on inspiring girls to speak up and be heard, to become competent decision makers and to realize their full potential.
Girl Talk is a peer mentoring program that pairs high school girls with middle school girls in order to help the younger girls navigate the tween and early teenage years. Not only do the middle school girls benefit from the guidance of their older peers, the high school girls learn from having the opportunity to share their experiences as positive role models.
Girl Up is a campaign of the United Nations Foundation. The mission is to give girls the opportunity to become global leaders and to raise awareness and funds for United Nations programs that help adolescent girls in need around the world.
Of these types of groups generally, Newby says: “These organizations are the incubators for the civic leaders and community stewards of tomorrow. ” Fortunately, for parents nationwide, there is no shortage of options. For example, Friendlander remarks: ” As the cofounder of Activity Rocket, I see every day all of the incredible opportunities that exist for our girls in the DC Metro area. There is something for every girl to find her ‘inner girl power.’”