A GLOW Facilitator's Reflections

 

 

February 24

 

Getting Comfortable With Change

 

“Puberty” is one of those words that makes young people uncomfortable. Maybe it is the adults that get uncomfortable when talking about puberty?  I was quite surprised last night when I brought up the topic of puberty in our GLOW group and the girls told me that they hadn’t really talked about puberty yet at school, or in some cases, at home.  These girls are in junior high so I thought they would have already had multiple discussions/classes regarding puberty as it had likely already started or has happened for most junior high girls.  

 

I love stats, so I started the discussion with some stats around puberty like how a girl’s confidence peaks at age 91 and by age 10, 80% of girls are worried about getting fat.2  

When asked why that is, the girls suggested 

  • maybe when you are little everyone tells you how pretty you are but that decreases as you get older, or 
  • maybe you get teased or you get on social media and start comparing yourself, or maybe it’s because of puberty.  Yes, it is all those things!  

 

We talked about how hard puberty is and I asked what would make it better?  

  • Talking about it was the answer.  They were clear they don’t want to hear about how horrible their teacher’s experience with puberty was or that they just “have to get through it”.  The girls expressed that they want actual honest conversations about the physical and emotional changes that they will experience.  They want knowledge and honesty! 

 

When it comes to changing bodies, one of the big concerns is what is happening is not normal- you are the only one experiencing this “thing” and that there must be something wrong with you.  When you are already feeling self conscious or awkward, the last thing you want to do is ask someone about the embarrassing thing you have going on.  Talking to girls about what to expect will make a huge difference in how they experience puberty.  

 

Puberty is such a personal thing therefore, the conversations around it, should be too.  Why not try to a Virtual Talking Circle to create an open and inviting environment to chat about puberty. Arrange the desks in your room into a circle with you sitting down in the circle, and just talk.  Share information, in a conversational tone in a comfortable, relaxed setting.  

 

These types of conversations should not be left up to the teachers to explain.  I have friends who have never talked to their kids about puberty or sex because they think their kids get all the information they need in school.  That is simply not true.  Here’s a strategy for parents: Try having a conversation with your child while driving in the car or through reading books together. The Because of Mr Terupt Middle School series is the ideal way to discuss puberty while the characters experience it. 

 

How we view our bodies influences all sorts of decisions we make.  Being uncomfortable with your body can lead to low self esteem, unhealthy decision making, risky behaviours, and unhealthy relationships.  Being comfortable with puberty and all it involves goes a long way in having a healthy body image.  

 

Teen girls want to talk about it. As adults, we can use books, podcasts, even a touch of humour to initiate the conversation. Let your teens know they can ask you anything.

 

1A Mighty Girl. (January 30, 2021).  Celebrating Every Body:  30 Body Positive Books for Mighty Girls.  Retrieved February 16, 2021 from https://www.amightygirl.com/blog?p=10912

 

2A Mighty Girl. (May 18, 2020). 7 Ways to help your daughter love her body. Retrieved February 16, 2021 from http://www.amightygirl.com/blog?p=25273


February 17

 

Let’s Talk About Relationships

 

Week 4 of the Taking Care of Yourself theme revolves around “taking care of your heart” or healthy relationships.  It is one of my favourite weeks as I think it is so very important to talk to our teens about relationships and to get them started thinking about whether their relationships are healthy or not.

 

Why is this so important?

 

We cannot assume that teens know what a healthy relationship looks like.  

 

We start to form our ideas of what a relationship looks like based on what we see and experience when we are young.  We look at the relationships that the adults in our lives have, and we also look at the relationships that we have ourselves.  We don’t really think about whether or not these relationships are healthy, they are just the norm for us.  We start to decide what we will and will not accept in our relationships at a young age, and if we don’t start thinking about relationships in terms of healthy and unhealthy at the same time, we run the risk of being comfortable with increasingly unhealthy behaviours as we get older.  Part of taking care of yourself is creating boundaries for yourself in relationships - what behaviours do you accept and what behaviours are you not comfortable with?  

 

Not everyone has the luxury of growing up in a home or friend circle filled with consistent examples of healthy relationships.  

 

In some homes, everything is fine, until there is the addition of a stressor, then there may be some unhealthy behaviours.  This may happen infrequently or regularly.  In some homes there is rarely the calmness of a stable, healthy relationship and unhealthy behaviours are the norm.

 

  • Some kids have no personal experience of being involved in a healthy relationship.
  • Others are surrounded by healthy experiences and examples and don’t understand how anyone could end up in an unhealthy relationship.  

 

The GLOW girls benefit from the discussions about healthy and unhealthy relationships.  They learn how anyone can end up in an abusive relationship.  They learn about red flags to watch out for, the complexities of relationships, and to have empathy for those in an abusive relationship.  

 

It is also important for our girls to be reminded that they are deserving of being treated with respect and that their voices and words matter.  They have the right to healthy relationships; free from fear, manipulation, name calling, peer pressure, and violence.  

 

Examining their relationships can also lead girls to realize that some of the things they are doing are not healthy behaviours. There may be room for improvement in how they are treating their siblings, parents, peers, or teachers.  I challenge them to change these behaviours and to look at how they are choosing to participate in relationships.  

 

According to the Red Cross, education is the key to reducing bullying.  Talking to teens about what healthy relationships look like is part of that education.  Pink Shirt Day is just around the corner - instead of talking to our kids about how they shouldn’t bully, why not take a different approach and have a conversation about what a healthy relationship looks like?  

 

Pink Shirt Day.  (n.d.).  Bullying Can Happen Anywhere.  Is Your School Prepared?  https://static1.squarespace.com/static/59de3c753e00be15fdb9d2ee/t/5ff2b29746517e2c74e2b6bb/1609740952449/Is%2BYour%2BSchool%2BPrepared%2BTipsheet.pdf

February 5th

 

Kindness Matters

 

Week 3 for this GLOW theme means talking about your values.  The girls participate in activities and discussions to help them discover their core values and identify values and qualities they admire or respect in themselves and others.  Although core values obviously vary from person to person, as do the values we respect in others, after doing these groups for years I can tell you the one thing that does not vary is how highly kindness is valued.

  • Kindness is consistently mentioned time after time as a value or quality that is respected in others and is also often named as a core value for group participants.  How we treat people and how people treat us matters. It’s not only the acts of kindness that are remembered but also how those acts made the girls feel. They smile when they share stories about a time someone treated them with kindness. It is easy to see the value they place on those experiences. Sometimes it is a time when they weren’t treated with respect that leads to someone valuing kindness.  They remember how they felt and want to make sure that they never make someone else feel that way.

I think it is also important to remind our teens that they are worthy and deserving of kindness.  Lots of us, especially girls and women, are uncomfortable when someone gives us a compliment.  We say things that indicate that we are not worthy of the compliment instead of just accepting the kindness and saying, “thank-you”.

  • For example we may make a joke or insult ourselves when someone tells us we look nice today.  Other times we get defensive and might take someone telling us that we look nice today as saying that we didn’t look nice other days.  It can be easier to think someone is being insulting than to accept kindness.  It isn’t always easy to just say “thank-you” when someone compliments you.  How did you react the last time someone gave you a compliment?
  • The girls have also shared that they feel uncomfortable when someone gives them a compliment because they feel like it will be bragging if they accept the compliment.  There is a lot of apprehension and confusion around accepting a compliment or acknowledging a strength versus bragging.  I like to explain the difference as connection versus competition or comparison. 
    •  If you say something like, “I really enjoy running and I’m pretty fast” that is connecting with yourself and acknowledging a strength.  It is being kind to yourself.  
    • On the other hand, if you compare yourself to others and say, “I am the fastest runner here. I am way faster than you are,” that is being competitive.  Comparison is not showing yourself or the other person kindness - even if you are the “winner” in the comparison this time, you won’t be every time and you will have made someone else feel bad.  Building yourself up by putting other people done will not bring you happiness.  

When working with children and teens, I think it is important to remind them that they are deserving of kindness and equally as important to also teach them to be kind to themselves.

 


February 1st

 

Under Pressure

 

What do you wish that your parents or teachers knew?” was the question that I opened our last GLOW group with.  All of the responses involved the amount of pressure or stress that teens are under.  

  • Teens feel that the majority of the adults around them do not appreciate the stress load that they are carrying.  Stress load is the level of stress that we are starting out with on a daily basis.  Our stress load is not a constant.  It will rise and fall based on events in our lives.  Teens wake up in the morning under pressure.  
  • They worry about grades, school, getting into post-secondary, sports, relationships, time management, social pressures, and in some cases friend and/or family issues.  
  • Now we can add everything to do with the pandemic into the mix too.  
  • Obviously the specifics vary from teen to teen, but what they want their parents and teachers to realize is that they are not starting from zero - they are already carrying a stress load.  

If our stress load is light, we can deal fairly well with unexpected events or changes.  When our stress load is already heavier than normal, any additional stressor feels heavier than it actually is. If this isn’t understood, it looks like a person is overreacting to a stressor, when actually if you look at the whole picture, their reaction is not disproportionate to the load they are carrying. 

  • For example, when teens get short notice about an assignment or an exam, it can cause a high level of stress if their stress load is already heavy.  
    • Asking your students about their extracurriculars or what they already have assigned that week for homework/exams and giving enough notice about large assignments or exams so that they can be planned for go a long way in keeping stress manageable.  
    • A parent nagging about homework or grades can also add to the pressure teens are already feeling.  Before having any discussions that are critical in nature, it is a good idea to first consider the stress load your teen is carrying.  Keep in mind that they likely don’t tell you everything so there is more to their stress load than you can easily identify.  
    • When discussions need to happen, approach your teen with compassion instead of criticizing or lecturing. 
    •  Encourage them to talk about the pressure they are under so you gain a better understanding of the situation and both of you can discuss how their grades, study habits, sport performance, or mood are being affected. 

 If you and your teen can work together to reduce their daily stress load, improvements in other areas will follow, and your teen will feel supported which will also help to lighten the stress load they are carrying.


January 21, 2021

 

Craving Connection

 

The start of a new GLOW session means goal setting.  Paying attention to the type of goals the girls are setting gives insight into what they are focusing on at the moment, what they need, and what they need more of. 

 

 At the beginning of 2021, what our teens need more of is connection.  

  • They miss seeing their friends in-person.  This is not surprising, but what may be shocking, is that even though they spend all sorts of time on social media and on their phones, perhaps more time than ever before, they do not feel connected.  It will be interesting to see if social media use decreases, once we can go back to normal and our teens can spend time in-person with their friends. Perhaps they will realize that connecting with people face-to-face and in-person is more satisfying than constantly being on a phone. A 2018 research study found that the more time people spent on social media, the lonelier they felt. 

Despite the fact that we are all spending more time at home than usual, it seemed that the girls are craving more connection with their families.  

  • From our GLOW Circle conversations, it seems that the issue isn’t that there wasn’t opportunity or invitation to doing family activities, but that there was a reluctance to join in.  The good news is that there also appears to be a desire to join in on family activities.  

The reason why the girls were not choosing to be a part of family activities wasn’t clear, but I think it’s fair to speculate that the reason may be feeling down, due to how different our lives currently are.  

  • Our teens are missing out on a lot socially and although they understand the importance of this sacrifice, it does have a negative effect on them.  When we are feeling down, it can be hard to leave our rooms and be around others, even though that contact and connection is a void that needs to be filled.  
  • Our teens need us to get creative in the ways we connect with them.  They need us to spend time with them and to talk to them about things, other than the pandemic.  They need us to encourage them to come out of their rooms and hang out. 
    •  As an example, invite them to bake or cook with you. It gives them a chance to choose a meal they enjoy eating and feel good about accomplishing a task.  

 

How we do this, doesn’t matter - what matters most is that we are spending time together. 

 

1 Hunt, G.H., et al (2018).  ‘No More FOMO:  Limiting Social Media Decreases Loneliness and Depression’, Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 37 (10) , pp. 751-768. Available at https://guilfordjournals.com/doi/pdf/10.1521/jscp.2018.37.10.751

 


Share this post on