Supporting girls becoming women

Supporting Girls Becoming Women (3)

What do you remember about becoming a teenager? Three things about my thirteenth birthday stick in my mind. The first is being thrilled to receive a pair of blue and yellow suede ‘disco skates’. The second is my grandmother sucking in her breath and telling me, “You’re a teenager now. There’s trouble ahead!” And the third is that right after that I lost control skating down a hill and badly skinned my knees and chin.

Secular Western society doesn’t do much to mark the transition from childhood to adulthood. So when a friend recommended a group which supports girls as they move into puberty, Cordie and I went along and in June 2015 Cordie began ‘Girls Journeying Together‘.

Over the last year the girls have met up once a month to explore topics related to growing up. In world which puts a great deal of pressure on young women to look and behave in certain ways, I love the way Kim, who led the group, encouraged the girls to take regular quiet time to tune in with themselves, and to try always to be true to themselves.

While the girls met, we mums would chat over a walk or coffee, our conversation enriched by thought-provoking questions Kim gave us that complemented what she was exploring with the girls that month. In this way, the mothers were able to share our journeys as our little girls become women, which included reflecting on our own experiences of growing up. We found this process surprisingly healing, as we each let go of emotional baggage we’d unconsciously been carrying around since our own teens. I’m sure we all emerged better equipped to support our daughters and to enjoy our changing relationships with them.

We were also inspired by the positive experiences a few of the women had when they were our daughters’ age. Many of the mums recalled starting their periods as a time of secrecy and embarrassment, but hearing one woman talk of being taken out for a celebratory meal, and another being given a special gift to mark the occasion gave us all ideas for how we might do things differently with our own daughters.

An end-of-journey celebration

Last Saturday marked the end of the girls’ year together. To celebrate, Kim invited us mums to join our daughters for a ceremony and party. The girls were asked to prepare something which would show their friends a side of them they may not have seen – to talk about a hobby, for instance.  The mums, meanwhile, were asked to think about how our daughters have changed over the last year, and to be ready to hold a metaphorical mirror up to them, reflecting back how we see them.

Managing our overexcitabilities at an intense ceremony

Cordie and I relished the focus the final ceremony provided, but as we absorbed the intense emotional energy of the group, we also had to deal with our OEs.

The combination of my enthusiasm and my OEs means I worry about dominating groups. And while I’m worrying about whether if I’ve said too much (or too little), I waste energy monitoring myself, which leaves me less present to what’s going on around me. What I loved about the girls’ group celebration was that during Kim’s opening meditation she reminded each person in the group to be herself, “no need to be any different, however that is at this moment.  Not to have to perform or try to be anyway other than each of us are this evening.” With those beautiful words** I felt myself relax. I remembered that I was among loving friends and that it was the combining of our unique individual energies that made the space so special.  (Wouldn’t it be nice if we could see the whole world that way?)

Cordie also had a wobbly moment. For her presentation she chose to sing and play guitar. She sings beautifully, and even though nerves caused her voice to waver slightly, no one noticed and everyone obviously enjoyed her performance. But because she didn’t do her best, Cordie got very tense and upset, which took her attention away from the celebration. Fortunately Kim was on hand to provide loving reassurance (of the kind that we often hear more easily from a non-parent!) and Cordie recovered.

When it was my turn in the spotlight, during the ‘hold a mirror to your daughter’ ritual, I acknowledged not only Cordie’s courage in performing in front of the group but – even more important –  her growing willingness and ability to move through the intense negative feelings she sometimes feels. It’s not always easy, but when we’re stuck, simply setting an intention to change our negative thinking is an important step in setting ourselves free to be present to the joy that’s around us. Which in Cordie’s case included entertaining her friends with her singing and playing for most of the subsequent party. 🙂

 

Supporting Girls Becoming Women

** I wrote to Kim, asking her to remind me of the special words she used which so put me at my ease. Here’s part of her reply:

“Basically, as in girls’ group, I want everyone to feel ‘right’, however it is that they are feeling.  Too often we can make ourselves wrong, or think ourselves wrong, and that is one of the things that we seek to stop ourselves doing over the year in girls’ group – so that we can let ourselves relax and just be who we are, whoever that is today.”

Isn’t that beautiful?

Resources

Website – Find out more about Girls Journeying Together at Rites for Girls

Podcast – Listen to Kim speak beautifully about the challenges girls face growing up and how we can support them in this podcast.

Book – The Emerging Woman: How to Celebrate Your Daughter Growing Up by Kim McCabe

Rites of passage (webpage) – a look at how puberty rites and coming of age ceremonies are celebrated around the world.

* * *

What do you remember about becoming a teenager?

How are you supporting (or did you support) your child’s transition into and through puberty?

Do you know of any resources about supporting boys growing up?

I’d love to hear from you in the comments below, or on the Laugh, Love, Learn FaceBook page.

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6 thoughts on “Supporting girls becoming women

  1. I love the idea of celebrating this transition and marking the start of your periods. Like you I think it is a shame we don’t have a way of doing this in our culture, but would love to be part of a group like you found for when my daughter gets to this stage. Thank you for the reminder to consider this, sharing your (and Cordie’s journey) and the resources at the end. Sounds like you both managed your OEs remarkably well 🙂

    1. I never would have thought of it either, Kirsty. I feel very fortunate that we heard about Girls Journeying Together. I wonder if these kind of rituals are especially helpful for our intense and sensitive daughters!

      Thank you so much for reading and for commenting – I always so appreciate your kind words (and I’m sorry to have taken so long to acknowledge them!).

  2. Lucinda,

    Turning thirteen was a tough time for me. I don’t have any happy memories of becoming a teenager. So many changes that weren’t to be spoken about. So many feelings that I couldn’t express. It was hard!

    I hope things have been different for my own girls. They’ve never attended such groups as the one you describe. We have never had celebratory dinners. But they know they can talk about their feelings and be accepted just as they are. I don’t think they have had any particular problems making the transition from younger children to teenagers. I’m sure it’s been easier because my girls have so many sisters to support and encourage them.

    I am imagining your blue and yellow suede ‘disco skates’! Your grandmother was certainly right about the trouble ahead. How did she know you were going to lose control skating down a hill?!

    You always write about such interesting topics, Lucinda! Thank you for the links. I’m going to check out the podcast.

    1. Sue, I’m sorry to hear that becoming a teenager was hard for you. But it sounds like you’ve created a very different environment in your own family. I’ve always enjoyed your positive blog posts and podcasts about teenagers. You and your girls have helped show me that adolescence doesn’t have to be a time of family turmoil. Thank you for that!

  3. This is a very interesting group for emerging teenage girls. I’ve never heard of it until now. I’m so glad you found it for Cordie. The ceremony is an important rite of passagem, it seems. I haven’t heard about a similar group for boys, but would surely be very interested if there was one!

    1. Hello Hwee, it’s lovely to hear from you! I hope all is well with you and Tiger.

      Yes, I’m so glad we found Girls Journeying Together. Kim (the group facilitator) said that in the absence of a group, she created a small family ritual for her son. I’m starting to think how I could do the same for Jasper. Do let me know if you hear of anything, though!

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