This November, 24 girls in 6th-8th grades embarked on a 2 day Journey and Wise Girl Workshops headed to Windsor, CA to be a part of it! An amazing group of Girl Scout Cadettes worked diligently to earn their Journey Badge. What an honor it was to help them think more about friendships, bullying, and how to handle conflict. I was struck by how engaged each girl was and how they gave great thought to each of the questions they worked on in their small groups.
From this event, I got to thinking how busy young girls are in their own lives and the drive to produce and get better is all around them, even for girls in 6th-8th grade. These kids are already thinking so hardcore about their future.
There is a pressing anxiety in the world. Who has time to think about friendship, bullying, and how to handle conflict? The message kids get when their isn’t time to talk about these important areas of their life? Just shove your feelings inside and move on. It’s not important. Just keep moving forward.
This workshop allowed girls to slow down and think about some of the most pressing issues of their developmental time. Friendship is an essential part of growing up and helps set the stage for how we function in life with others.
Upon ending the workshop the girls shared a few words on how the time we spent together made them feel. Girls said things like they felt informed and educated. Girls said they were relieved to talk and hear from one another. Some of my favorite feedback of the day? “Better.” So many girls felt “better” after talking together. I couldn’t ask for anything more.
Wise Girl Workshops mission to to change the world one girl at a time. Thanks Windsor, CA Girl Scout Troop #11302 for valuing girls and giving them the time they need to think and do what is truly important.
Running Wise Girl Workshops is no small task, and I am thrilled and honored to support girls in 5th-8th grade around areas of anxiety, making wise decisions, developing healthy coping skills, increasing self-esteem, and spreading more kindness to their peers and the world.
Do you remember your 5th-8th grade self? If you are like me, you may remember a variety of selves that showed up. Transitioning from a kid to a teen in the matter of 4 short years. From changing bodies to older topics of conversations to getting in and out of braces. Then there is the labeling yourself, judging others, trying to find your place, changing relationships with your family members and friends, and seeing yourself in a whole new way. And then there is the more modern day changes from no phone to phone and from texting to use of social media platforms.
I believe these years are extremely critical to our development and are a window of opportunity. Kids and teens can still hear us. I see it all the time in my work; kids who are spouting out their family values, words, and beliefs. Towards the junior high time though, many parents feel like their kids stop listening to them. This time is when it can be helpful to have your child hear positive messages from other people.
Deep down inside of me is a teacher with wisdom to share with younger people. While I don’t have all the answers, I believe I do have a knowing based on my own experiences, the experiences of others, and my training to help guide, share, and inspire.
There are a lot of things I wish I would’ve known and why I feel so compelled to run Wise Girl Workshops. Here are a few:
- That feeling you get when you start eating a lot of food when you aren’t even hungry or you find yourself drinking faster, that’s anxiety. There are healthy things you can do when you recognize that feeling to take care of yourself and watch it pass.
- You can be the person you want to be and you will also have challenges within yourself. That’s ok. You don’t have to be perfect.
- You are enough and can love yourself as is AND you can also work to better yourself all at the same time. It doesn’t have to be one or the other.
- You can make good decisions for yourself and seek guidance from the loving adults around you. It is ok, and people approve of you asking for help.
- We all want attention. You don’t have to seek it out in unhealthy ways and succumb to pressure from others in order to be seen.
- We are all just trying to find our place. It’s ok to feel sad, worried, scared, and lonely. It’s ok to talk to someone who cares about you when you feel this way. You aren’t weak. You are human. And you don’t have to happy all the time.
- You can dream big and make things happen.
- You don’t have to sit quietly when comments, gestures, or requests are made that make you uncomfortable. Stand up for yourself. Set limits with others.
- Allow yourself and others to try on different ways of being without judgement. We are all going through it. No one way is right.
- Give yourself permission to embrace your strengths. From academic success to athleticism, to being funny and caring. It all counts!
- No one ever starts out using substances and intends to be addicted. It can happen to anyone.
What do you wish you would’ve known?
If you or your family member suffers from anxiety, chances are you are being bossed around by it. Anxiety might say things like:
“Don’t do that!”
“You can’t do that!”
“Call me when you leave!”
“Text me when you get there!”
“Don’t leave before I tell you to!”
“This is going to be bad!”
Now notice there is an exclamation point after each of these statements. This is because if it were said in a calm, cool manner, it wouldn’t be anxiety. Anxiety has an urgent fretful tone to it, warranting the exclamation. If you hear this more urgent tone coming from yourself or your loved one, odds are good, it is anxiety trying to push you around. Even if you aren’t the one suffering directly, anxiety has been known to be contagious and make others around them feel it too. The whole system gets impacted.
Who likes to be bossed around? (The crowd goes silent.)
So what does one do when anxiety is bossing them around?
1. Once you recognize anxiety is there and possibly bossing you, take a deep breath, maybe even a few to make room in your brain to think rationally about what is happening and what you will do next.
2. Decide if the anxiety is warranted. Ask yourself questions like, “Am I really in danger?” “What will actually happen if I don’t text my kid every 5 minutes from the grocery store as he demanded?”
3. If you are in danger, worry away and get yourself to a safe spot.
4. If are not in any real danger, which most likely is the case, begin to use your logic to talk yourself off the ledge. “Who is talking here? Me or anxiety?” “What is actually going to happen if….?”
5. Soothe yourself by talking calmly to yourself. “I am going to be ok.” “She’ll be back in 30 minutes.”
6. Do something to give your mind a break from the anxiety after you have gone through these steps. We don’t want to avoid our feelings but we do want to give ourselves a bit of space if we are feeling flooded by them, and we do want to move on after we have gone through the steps. No need to stay stuck.
7. Have a party! Recognizing when anxiety is bossing you around and choosing to do something different other than let it take control of you is definitely worth celebrating!
I handle anxiety with ease.
Imagine your boss was watching you 24/7 and evaluating whether you have been “good” at each second of the day. Based on this vigilant watching, your paycheck would arrive or not arrive. You weren’t sure. Was it ok if you chatted for 2 minutes on the phone with your partner about what was for dinner that night? Or grabbing a coffee on the way to a meeting? Does that count as “naughty?”
Those questions could pose some serious pressure.
Now imagine your brain isn’t fully developed enough to be able to reason the way our adult mind can. Imagine people were reminding you everywhere that “your boss is watching!”
The stress for some could feel unsurmountable. You might eventually breakdown: lying, tears, fits, self deprecation, illness, fatigue.
I paint this picture to give you some insight into what it can be like for many children around the holidays. It’s an amazing time of year but with it comes the stress of being perfect and being watched. Yikes!
It might be worthwhile to give your child some room to make mistakes and to empathize with the pressure they may be feeling. Here are a few things you can say when your child is making some poor choices this holiday season.
- While Santa may know when we are naughty or nice, he also knows when we do the right thing even after making a poor choice. And it matters to him. Let’s see if you can do the right thing starting now!
- I know it can feel hard to do everything right over the holidays with our Elf (name) watching all the time. But I want you to know, its ok to not be perfect. Let’s just do our best to treat others the way we want to be treated. How do you want (person’s name) to treat you right now? Ok, let’s work on treating them the same way.
- Did you know the elves sometimes get angry when their toy making doesn’t turn out the exact way they had hoped? Sure do! They have a few tools they use to calm themselves down. They have a special breathing tool they use and I learned it once when I was a kid. It’s called the Santa Belly Breath. First you breath in making your belly as round as Santa’s. Yes, that’s it! That big! Then they hold their breath for a second and slowly let it out…..
Be playful, kind, and loving with your interventions. The way we approach a situation could really make a difference.
Back to the boss analogy for a moment. Let’s say your boss came to you and screamed in your face that you better knock it off! There was no paycheck if you kept it up! You might feel ashamed, extremely worried, and stressed. Would you want the same for your child? Probably not. You probably want them to stop the behavior or have some remorse. But shame? Not exactly.
I ask you to remember to have empathy for the pressure those little people feel and treat your children the way you want to be treated.
Wishing you and your family the very best this holiday season!
I am kind, loving, and playful with myself and those around me.
I wanted to share a recent article about me featured on Simple Practice’s Spotlight Series. Check out this article to learn a more about me and the work I love to do.