Girls look to the women in their lives to give them a sense of what it’s like to be a woman. They emulate the women they like, and strive to be different from those they don’t.
Many girls find themselves with only one woman who knows them well — their own
mother. If she’s lucky a girl will also have a smattering of aunts, grandmothers, godmothers, cousins, friends’ mothers and mother’s friends who take an interest in her. She may also have a special teacher, tutor, or coach. Even then, many girls rarely have the opportunity of hearing women speak about their dreams, their passions, their relationships, and their bodies. And yet, we want our girls to forge their own futures, to know what is important to them, to form firm friendships, and to like themselves. So often seeking these vital goals is left to chance, or in the hands of schools, or to the influence of social media.
Every girl needs 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 other children, then a girls’ group can fill the gap.
How does a girls’ group work?
One or two women with group-work skills find a private place to meet, gather together six to twelve girls of similar age, and provide a space so each girl can:
|learn about the changes that puberty brings|
|get to know each other really well — well enough to dare to speak their innermost fears and heartfelt hopes|
|laugh and cry and play and feast|
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 modelling 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, so why not insist on structured adult support to prepare our children for adulthood? Most religions and many tribes still recognise the importance of guiding children safely towards adulthood, and offer them a rite of passage while they are actively engaged in this maturation process. We find ourselves living in a culture that values grades and awards over developing good relationships and a healthy sense of self.
The more ‘developed’ we become, the more we abandon our teenagers. Instead we leave them to invent their own idealisations for adulthood and make their own markers to prove their adulthood, which often involve using drink, sex, driving, and other risk-taking activities.
Look for a Girls Journeying Together group near you.