Giving our children good endings

As we come to the end of the year, we all have our different ways of marking it.  For some it’s a time for seasonal rituals and community, or it may be a time of sadness, or a reflective time to pause.  Whether they’re welcomed or dreaded, endings are almost always potent with feeling.  And life is punctuated by them.  So let’s figure out how to give our children a good experience of endings.

Thinking back over your life, when have you experienced a good ending?
What might a good ending look like, sound like, and feel like?
How might someone anticipate and experience endings differently, after they’ve had the experience of good ones?
Actually pause to ponder these questions, and make notes if you wish…
An ending is a kind of death; and we don’t like to think about, talk about, or embrace death.  And yet, like death, endings are an inevitable part of life.
Fearing endings, trying to avoid them, or denying them, prevents us from living fully.  Holding on gets in the way of moving on.
Do you ever notice yourself holding back because you fear the end?

From the first cutting of the umbilical cord, to flying the nest, childhood is full of endings.  Some are managed better than others – weaning, new school, friendships changing, birthdays, siblings leaving home, divorce, pets and grandparents dying, the list is never-ending.  We cannot protect our children from endings, but we can equip them.  Growing up means letting go, over and over again, and many children mourn the loss of their childhood whilst welcoming the new freedoms of adolescence and young adulthood.  Every death is also a new beginning. 

In Girls’ Net, we want to give girls a good experience of an ending.  This doesn’t mean that they won’t feel sad, or want it not to end, those feelings belong.  But despite some girls’ wish to avoid an ending, their Mentor holds a clear boundary for the girls at the end of Girls’ Net.  We give them a good ending.

First, we prepare for the ending.  Then, we mark the ending with a celebration at the last session.  We make space for the mixture of feelings, whatever they may be.  We acknowledge that while Girls’ Net is finishing, life continues on; and the girls will take with them all that they’ve gained from their time with their Girls’ Net group.  It’s theirs to keep and use, now and in the future.  They also carry with them a sense of what the other girls and their shared experience in Girls’ Net means to them. 

One of the many intentions in Girls’ Net is for girls to recognise their own strength, the internal resources that they have inside that they can call on in challenging times.  Another aim is to work together to figure out where each girl’s sources of support are, noticing who they know that they can trust and talk to.  We also make sure they learn about national sources of support for young people.  Girls’ Net connects girls to themselves and to other sources of support.  At the end of Girls’ Net, girls are resourced inside and out. 

  • 97% feel better about the future
  • 96% say they know how to take better care of themselves
  • 98% would recommend us to other girls

We want it to be easy for girls to join

So the first session is a taster session, where girls can meet each other, and their Mentor, who gives them a taste of what a Girls’ Net session is like.  Then girls decide whether they’d like to join for the next five weeks, with no pressure.  We meet online, affording girls the safety and privacy of their own homes.  Girls can choose whether to turn their camera on or not, when to speak, or share by typing in chat.  We want to make Girls’ Net comfortable for a diversity of girls to gather, learn and share.

What do the girls mean to each other in Girls’ Net?

Girls come to Girls’ Net just exactly as they are, with no need to change anything about themselves in order to fit in.  Girls belong as they are.  Girls’ Net fosters a community where girls can practise being themselves, where they learn not to judge each other or themselves.  Many girls don’t have this experience anywhere else, so Girls’ Net gives girls an experience of what good friendship feels like.  It helps girls to recognise harmful friendships and build the confidence to look for healthy ones.
In Girls’ Net, girls also have the experience of realising that they’re not alone in their experiences or feelings.  There’s nothing like a chorus of “me too!” to make your struggles feel normal.  Girls begin not to feel wrong for how they feel, or for finding life a struggle at times; and by helping each other, they realise how much wisdom and strength they carry inside.  As girls learn about themselves, they also discover that there are no prizes for coping alone, and to reach out for support in times of difficulty.

Why does it have to end?

With so many benefits to belonging to a Girls’ Net group, many girls don’t want it to end.  But the group’s short intensity is one of its strengths, as the girls are carried on a journey together, resourcing themselves for all the times when life is hard.  We do not facilitate girls to stay in touch at the end of the six-week series for good reason.  We don’t perpetuate the fantasy that good things don’t come to an end, that somehow the group can continue without the structure and holding of their Mentor.  While the connections between the girls during the six-week series can be enormously affirming, it’s better to have a clear ending than for the group to fizzle out disappointingly.  A bit like intense fun holiday friendships, these are hard to maintain once you return home.  Past experience has showed us that girls aren’t equipped to keep the group going by themselves as they don’t know how to be together without the Mentor.  The group faltering then takes away from the positive experience of the mentored Girls’ Net.

Not all girls would be able to stay in touch afterwards anyway.  For some it’s important to protect their privacy, some won’t have internet access and unsupervised, we cannot ensure their safety when we’re not there.  Girls’ Net is designed to be inclusive, so we all need to end together.

How do we say goodbye?

Well, we start to prepare to say goodbye in the very first session.  We make sure that girls know that we’ll be meeting for an hour and a quarter every week for six weeks and then we’ll stop.  In between our sessions, there’s an online notebook where they can add their comments and pictures, if they want to.  That notebook will become a keepsake memory of their time together, the topics we’ve talked about and the things they’ve shared.  Then we practise ending the week before the end.  And on our final session, we mark the ending with a celebration. 

In our last session, we make space for the mixture of feelings.  It’s normal to feel sad at the prospect of not seeing each other again, especially when the group has become somewhere that feels safe, warm and friendly.  There might also be a sense of relief, as life is busy and a weekly commitment is a lot to maintain.  We hope the girls will feel happy and proud of themselves too, for what they’ve achieved together.  Their Mentor will share their sadness, having enjoyed getting to know the girls.  However, having created good endings before, the Mentor will be able to share with the girls that it helps to know that you carry a part of the group with you after it ends.   What is sadness, if not an indication that something matters to us?  It’s a good sign if, at the end of something, you feel sad.

We’ve all heard it said that an ending is a new beginning.  Each girl takes what she’s learned from Girls’ Net with her into her future.  The story continues for the rest of her life.  And girls join the hundreds of other girls around the world who have shared the unique experience of Girls’ Net.

To find out more about Girls’ Net and to register your daughter, click here

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