The impact of the pandemic on the mental health of young people is well known, whether we are seeing the effects unfold in our own homes, or hearing from the American Academy of Pediatrics or the U.S. Surgeon General about the tenuous state of child and adolescent mental health. And we also know that the wellness struggle is worse in marginalized communities, who already are disadvantaged by systemic biases.
Our girls need social and emotional support, at home, with friends, and with peers at school or in sports. Our family-based programs are designed to help equip girls and grownups with practical communication skills, while deepening their bond along the way. We have programs to help kindergarten and 1st graders learn how to handle friendships, a program to help 2nd and 3rd graders be brave in the face of conflict, two options to help 4th and 5th graders learn how to advocate for themselves, and a program to help 6th, 7th, and 8th graders handle difficult conversations and relationships.
And here is why girls need social and emotional learning support now, from the perspective of parents and caregivers who have taken our programs with their girls.
1. Girls need help navigating friendships now
Friendships are at the heart of so much for kids, and girls need support navigating the ups and downs of relationships. “I had noticed [my daughter] having trouble telling her friends when she felt hurt by their conduct. I wanted her to learn to express herself, and even to recognize when a friendship is not working for her and might be worth not continuing,” shares one parent.
After years of navigating friendships through masks, without indoor playdates, and over screens, many families are finding that they need support to make up for lost socialization time.
2. Challenging friendship dynamics start early
Kids are growing up earlier, probably thanks at least in part to how plugged in they are digitally. One participant shared that the workshop they participated in is “so needed for these younger girls as the dynamics start so young now.”
3. Adults need support with communication skills too!
One parent shared that they were struck by how much the issues being covered for girls were needed by adults. “These were all topics my 40-something friends and I were struggling with and talking about … a lot.” In fact we have yet to find an adult parent or caretaker who didn’t come away telling us they learned as much as their girl.
4. Trained facilitators are skilled at helping kids open up
It may seem a little scary to walk into a new community in the midst of struggle but trained facilitators can bring out different things in kids. “[Our instructor] created a safe space to share feelings. [My daughter] felt super comfortable sharing and speaking up about experiences that she never shared with me before,” says one parent.
5. Girls need new role models
Our instructors are amazing, and we love that parent feedback routinely sings their praises! One participant shares, “I was also so incredibly impressed by our instructor. She is a strong, empathetic, and brilliant young woman. I discovered that I have a newfound hope for the future and our leaders if they are anything like [our instructor].”
6. Girls need to know that they are not alone
Giving girls an opportunity to connect with peers in other spaces is invaluable, especially if they are struggling with friendships in their immediate community. “Our leader/teacher was incredible. It made the course really fun and [my daughter] loved meeting the other girls in the class.”
7. Not all school programs offer social and emotional learning support
While some schools are trying to incorporate social and emotional learning support, it’s not a given. One participant shared, “I’m not sure Girls Leadership programming is available elsewhere. But it should be. I wish it was taught in our schools. Highly recommend the classes, as well as advocacy to have this information taught in our public schools to our girls. So much time is spent on math and reading, but emotional intelligence of the sort taught in the class I took with [my daughter] is just as necessary.”