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Chapter 2: Engaging Girls and Families

Girls:

Healthy Girl Development: Knowing more about girl development can help you plan activities that are right for the age of your troop; help you set your expectations for behavior, attention span, and capabilities; and simply understand your troop better. Check development charts each time your troop bridges to a new program level.

Daisies (K-1)

Girl Scout Daisies…

This means…

Have loads of energy and need to run, walk, and play outside.

They’ll enjoy going on nature walks and outdoor scavenger hunts.

Are great builders and budding artists, though they are still developing their fine motor skills.

They’ll like expressing themselves by being creative and by making things with their hands. Girls may need assistance holding scissors, cutting in a straight line, and so on.

Love to move and dance.

They might especially enjoy marching like a penguin, dancing like a dolphin, or acting out how they might care for animals in the jungle.

Are concrete thinkers and focused on the here and now.

They’ll learn more when you show instead of tell. For example, to help them learn about animals, plan visits to animal shelters, farms, or zoos. Meet animal care providers or make a creative bird feeder.

Are only beginning to learn about basic number concepts, time, and money.

You can take opportunities to count out supplies together—and, perhaps, the legs on a caterpillar!

Are just beginning to write and spell, and they don’t always have the words for what they’re thinking or feeling.

Having girls draw a picture of something they are trying to communicate is easier and more meaningful for them.

Know how to follow simple directions and respond well to recognition for doing so.

It’s best to be specific and offer only one direction at a time. Acknowledge when girls have followed directions well to increase their motivation to listen and follow again.

Brownies (grades 2-3)

Girl Scout Brownies…

This means…

Have loads of energy and need to run, walk, and play outside.

Taking your session activities outside whenever possible.

Are social and enjoy working in groups.

Allowing girls to team up in small or large groups for art projects and performances.

Want to help others and appreciate being given individual responsibilities for a task.

Letting girls lead, direct, and help out in activities whenever possible. Allow girls as a group to make decisions about individual roles and responsibilities.

Are concrete thinkers and focused on the here and now.

Doing more than just reading to girls. Ask girls questions to gauge their understanding and allow them to role play.

Need clear directions and structure, and like knowing what to expect.

Offering only one direction at a time. Also, have girls create the schedule and flow of your get-togethers and share it at the start.

Are becoming comfortable with basic number concepts, time, money, and distance.

Offering support only when needed. Allow girls to set schedules for meetings or performances, count out money for a trip, and so on.

Are continuing to develop their fine motor skills and can tie shoes, use basic tools, begin to sew, etc.

Encouraging girls to express themselves and their creativity by making things with their hands. Girls may need some assistance, however, holding scissors, threading needles, and so on.

Love to act in plays, create music, and dance.

Girls might like to create a play about welcoming a new girl to their school, or tell a story through dance or creative movement.

Know how to follow rules, listen well, and appreciate recognition of a job done well.

Acknowledging the girls when they have listened or followed directions well, which will increase their motivation to listen and follow again!

Juniors (grades 4-5)

Girl Scout Juniors…

This means…

Want to make decisions and express their opinions.

Allowing girls to make decisions and express their opinions through guided discussion and active reflection activities, whenever possible. Also, have girls set rules for listening to others’ opinions and offering assistance in decision-making.

Are social and enjoy doing things in groups.

Allowing girls to team up in small or large groups for art projects, performances, and written activities.

Are aware of expectations and sensitive to the judgments of others.

Being aware that it’s OK to have expectations, but the expectation is not perfection! Share your own mistakes and what you learned from them, and be sure to create an environment where girls can be comfortable sharing theirs.

Are concerned about equity and fairness

Not shying away from discussing why rules are in place, and having girls develop their own rules for their group.

Are beginning to think abstractly and critically, and are capable of flexible thought. Juniors can consider more than one perspective, as well as the feelings and attitudes of another.

Asking girls to explain why they made a decision, share their visions of their roles in the future, and challenge their own and others’ perspectives.

Have strong fine and gross motor skills and coordination.

Engaging girls in moving their minds and their bodies. Allow girls to express themselves through written word, choreography, and so on.

Love to act in plays, create music, and dance.

Creating opportunities for girls to tell a story through playwriting, playing an instrument, or choreographing a dance.

May be starting puberty, which means beginning breast development, skin changes, and weight changes. Some may be getting their periods.

Being sensitive to girls’ changing bodies, possible discomfort over these changes, and their desire for more information. Create an environment that acknowledges and celebrates this transition as healthy and normal for girls.

Cadettes (grades 6-8)

Girl Scout Cadettes…

This means…

Are going through puberty, including changes in their skin, body shape, and weight. They’re also starting their menstrual cycles and have occasional shifts in mood.

Being sensitive to the many changes Cadettes are undergoing and acknowledging that these changes are as normal as growing taller! Girls need time to adapt to their changing bodies, and their feelings about their bodies may not keep up. Reinforce that, as with everything else, people go through puberty in different ways and at different times.

Are starting to spend more time in peer groups than with their families and are very concerned about friends and relationships with others their age.

Girls will enjoy teaming up in small or large groups for art projects, performances, and written activities, as well as tackling relationship issues through both artistic endeavors and Take Action projects.

Can be very self-conscious—wanting to be like everyone else, but fearing they are unique in their thoughts and feelings.

Encouraging girls to share, but only when they are comfortable. At this age, they may be more comfortable sharing a piece of artwork or a fictional story than their own words. Throughout troop activities, highlight and discuss differences as positive, interesting, and beautiful.

Are beginning to navigate their increasing independence and expectations from adults—at school and at home.

Trusting girls to plan and make key decisions, allowing them to experience what’s known as “fun failure”–girls learn from trying something new and making mistakes.

Seniors (grades 9-10)

Girl Scout Seniors (grades 9-10)…

This means…

Are beginning to clarify their own values, consider alternative points of view on controversial issues, and see multiple aspects of a situation.

Asking girls to explain the reasoning behind their decisions. Engage girls in role play and performances where others can watch and offer alternative solutions.

Have strong problem-solving and critical thinking skills and are able to plan and reflect on their own learning experiences.

Girls are more than able to go beyond community service to develop projects that will create sustainable solutions in their communities. Be sure to have girls plan and follow up on these experiences through written and discussion-based reflective activities.

Spend more time in peer groups than with their families and are very concerned about friends and relationships with others their age.

Girls will enjoy teaming up in small or large groups for art projects, performances, and written activities. They’ll also want to tackle relationship issues through both artistic endeavors and Take Action projects. Alter the makeup of groups with each activity so that girls interact with those they might not usually pair with.

Frequently enjoy expressing their individuality.

Encouraging girls to express their individuality in their dress, creative expression, and thinking. Remind girls frequently that there isn’t just one way to look, feel, think, or act. Assist girls in coming up with new ways of expressing their individuality.

Feel they have lots of responsibilities and pressures—from home, school, peers, work, and so on.

Acknowledging girls’ pressures and sharing how stress can limit health, creativity, and productivity. Help girls release stress through creative expression, movement, and more traditional stress-reduction techniques.

Are continuing to navigate their increasing independence and expectations from adults—at school and at home.

Trusting girls to plan and make key decisions, allowing them to experience what’s known as “fun failure:” girls learn from trying something new and making mistakes.

Ambassadors (grades 11-12)

Girl Scout Ambassadors…

This means…

Can see the complexity of situations and controversial issues—they understand that problems often have no clear solution and that varying points of view may each have merit.

Inviting girls to develop stories as a group and then individually create endings that they later discuss and share.

Have strong problem-solving and critical thinking skills and can adapt logical thinking to real life situations. Ambassadors recognize and incorporate practical limitations to solutions.

Girls are more than able to go beyond community service to develop projects that will create sustainable solutions in their communities. Be sure to have girls plan and follow up on these experiences through written and discussion-based reflective activities.

Spend more time with peers than with their families and are very concerned about friends and relationships with others their age.

Encourage girls to team up in small or large groups for art projects, performances, and written activities. They’ll also want to tackle relationship issues through artistic endeavors and Take Action projects. Alter the makeup of groups with each activity so that girls interact with those they might not usually pair with.

Frequently enjoy expressing their individuality.

Encouraging girls to express their individuality in their dress, creative expression, and thinking. Remind girls frequently that there isn’t just one way to look, feel, think, or act. Assist girls in coming up with new ways of expressing their individuality.

Feel they have lots of responsibilities and pressures—from home, school, peers, work, etc.

Acknowledging pressures and sharing how stress can limit health, creativity, and productivity. Help girls release stress through creative expression, movement, and more traditional stress-reduction techniques.

Are continuing to navigate their increasing independence and expectations from adults—at school and at home—and are looking to their futures.

Trusting girls to plan and make key decisions, allowing them to experience what’s known as “fun failure”–learning from trying something new and making mistakes.

 

Working with Girls:

Tips for Talking with Girls

Girls like having someone who they can talk to about important things—even things that don’t seem important to volunteers. Few things boost a girl’s trust and confidence more than knowing that she’s shared and been truly heard.

Try these communication tips:

Listen instead of telling girls what to think, feel or do. If you hear yourself responding with, “You shouldn’t…” that’s a sign to step back and listen more.

Be honest. Share when you are happy or concerned about something. Encourage girls to do this too in order to establish open communication.

Be open to real issues. Girls may want to discuss relationships, peer pressure, school, money, drugs, and other serious issues. Take time to listen. If girls want answers you don’t have, that’s okay. You don’t have to be an expert on every topic. Seek out other volunteers who have the expertise to help, or contact your service unit or Girl Scouts San Diego for advice.  Hold off on discussing sensitive topics until you have contacted your troop support specialist at Girl Scouts San Diego and have written parent permission from parents to discuss the issue.

Show respect. Girls will tell you that their best experiences were the ones where adults treated them as equal partners. Being spoken to as a young adult helps them grow.

Offer options. Be flexible when it comes to the needs and interests of the girls in your troop and their busy lives, but provide guidance and parameters too—girls of every age want and need these.

Stay current to show that you’re interested in their world. Learn a little about the shows girls watch, movies they like, and music and books they choose.

Give the LUTE Method a Try

Listen to girls. Ask for details and show that you’re listening by saying things like, “What happened next?”

Understand. Show that you understand how she feels with statements like these:

  • So what I hear you saying is…
  • I’m sure that upset you
  • I understand why you’re unhappy
  • Your feelings are hurt—mine would be too

Tolerate. You can tolerate the feelings that she just can’t handle right now on her own. It signifies that you can listen and accept how she is feeling about the situation. Say something like:

  • Try talking to me about it—I’ll listen
  • I know you’re mad—talking it out helps
  •  I can handle it, say whatever you want to

Empathize. Let her know you can imagine feeing what she’s feeling with comments like these:

  • I’m sure that really hurts
  • I can imagine how painful this is for you
Progression

Progression means choosing and planning activities so that each new experience builds on the last. Progression is an important part of emotional safety because girls are more likely to feel confident, safe, and successful when they choose their activities and master skills over time.

For example, you wouldn’t take a new Daisy troop backpacking. Instead, you’d help the troop gradually develop skills, confidence, and experience. Remember, too, no matter how excited you might be, it’s best to check with girls to make sure that they are ready and want to take the next step.

Learn about progression for:

When Your Daughter is in Your Troop

Having your daughter in your Girl Scout troop is an opportunity to strengthen your bond and enjoy special time together, but you may face challenges too, like keeping things fair for everyone. Consider taking a leader-daughter training for some quality Girl Scout time. And follow these tips to keep your mother-daughter relationship and the troop running smoothly:

You might want to…
Rather than…

Have the co-leader be in charge of your daughter. If your co-leader has a daughter, be in charge of her.

Lead your daughter yourself.

Have your daughter call you what the other girls call you (e.g. Mrs. Smith or a camp name).

Have your daughter call you “Mom.”

Give your daughter the same amount attention as you give other girls.

Show your daughter more or less attention than the other girls.

Let girls who arrive early to meetings help set up and use a kaper chart for cleanup so that everyone helps.
Expect your daughter to help you set up and clean up at each meeting.

Let your daughter experience surprises and projects along with the other girls.

Discuss troop meeting plans with your daughter or have her make sample projects ahead of time so that you can see how much time a project takes.

Have the co-leader remind your daughter that decisions are up to the whole troop.

Let your daughter take the lead in making troop decisions because she is your daughter.

Keep a baggie with the girl’s names written on craft sticks. Randomly pick names from the baggie when you need help with something.

Favor your daughter by always choosing her, or ignoring your daughter by never choosing her for a task.

Don’t take it personally if your daughter tries to push your buttons (like refusing to do something). She’s just testing her limits. Take her aside and calmly explain her choices.

Lose your calm and reprimand your daughter in front of the troop, or ignore the behavior in hopes that it won’t happen again.

Allow your daughter to choose if she wants to share her things or space.

Make your daughter share her belongings or personal space.

Spend time alone with your daughter outside of Girl Scouting so that she has time with you to herself.

Just spend time together in Girl Scouts, with little time alone together.

Engaging Girls Who Have a Disability

One in five people in the U.S. has a disability. If you have a girl with a disability in your Girl Scout troop, you’ll be in a position to improve the way society views disabilities. How? Focus on what she can do, not on what she can’t.

Step 1: Talk with her parents. Find out what she needs to make her Girl Scout experience successful. Be open, honest, and accessible. Parents will appreciate your approach and respond in kind. 

Step 2: Reward all girls on their best effort. Reward effort and put less focus on the completion of a task. When you give girls the opportunity to do their best, they will.

Step 3: Approach activities in a creative way. When you have girls with disabilities. Try these approaches:

  • Invite a girl to complete an activity after she has observed others doing it.
  • If you are visiting a museum to view sculpture, find out if a girl who is blind might be given permission to touch the pieces.
  • If an activity requires running, a girl who is unable to run could be asked to walk or do another physical movement.

Step 4: Follow these best practices:

  • Talk directly to a girl with a disability, instead of relaying info through a parent or friend.
  • Offer assistance, but wait until a girl accepts assistance before you begin to help. Ask what help is needed. Listen to any instructions a girl may give you about what she needs.
  • Don’t lean on a girl’s wheelchair or use it to store your belongings—that’s her space.
  • Speak directly to a girl who is deaf and using an interpreter—not to the interpreter.
  • Place yourself at eye level when you speak to a girl using a wheelchair.
  • Identify yourself and others when you speak to a girl with blindness (i.e., “Hi, it’s Sheryl. Tara is on my right, and Chris is on my left.”)

Step 5: Be mindful of language. How you say things can make a difference. Avoid defining a girl by her disability.

Say this…

Not that…

She has a learning disability.

She is learning disabled.

She has a developmental delay.

She is mentally retarded; she is slow.

She uses a wheelchair.

She is wheelchair-bound.

Engaging Older Girls

What Girl Scouts need from their troop leader and other volunteers changes as girls grow. Try these tips when working with teenage girls:

  • Treat girls like partners
  • Understand that girls need time to talk, unwind, and have fun together
  • Ask girls what they think and what they want to do
  • Encourage girls to speak their minds
  • Provide structure, but don’t micromanage
  • Give everyone in the group a voice
  • Keep it confidential—don’t repeat what’s said within the troop with others, unless a girl’s safety is at stake
Discussing Sensitive Topics

We know from research that girls want to connect with volunteers who can help them with the issues they face like bullying, peer pressure, dating, and performance in school and athletics. It’s important for you to know that Girl Scouts come from a wide range of faiths and cultures and that their parents may consider some of these issues to be “sensitive.”

Hold off on discussing sensitive topics until you have contacted your troop support specialist at Girl Scouts San Diego and have written parent permission from parents to discuss the issue.

Parents/guardians make all decisions regarding their girl’s participation in Girl Scout programs that may be of a sensitive nature. As a volunteer leader, you must get written parental permission for any locally planned program offering that could be considered sensitive. Included on the permission form should be the topic of the activity, any specific content that might create controversy, and any action steps the girls will take when the activity is complete. Be sure to have a form for each girl and keep the forms on hand in case a problem arises.

For activities not sponsored by Girl Scouts, find out in advance (from organizers or other volunteers who may be familiar with the content) what will be presented and follow your council’s guidelines for obtaining written permission.

When you have permission to discuss sensitive issues, you can help the girls learn in a supportive atmosphere. Remember to stay neutral, though. It’s not a troop leader’s role to persuade girls to adopt a position on an issue.

About sexuality topics. At Girl Scouts, our role is to guide girls so that they develop self-confidence and good decision-making skills that will help them make wise choices in all areas of their lives. We do not take a position on or develop materials relating to human sexuality, birth control, or abortion.  Parents and guardians, along with schools and faith communities, are primary sources for these topics.

Getting Girls to Lead

Girls from Daisies to Ambassadors gain confidence and leadership skills when they have the opportunity to lead their activities, cooperate as a group, and learn by doing instead of simply watching.

Let young girls make simple choices between two or three activity ideas. As they become more skilled, have them brainstorm and talk pros and cons through. Older girls can identify and research activities and then take steps to do them. You’ll be amazed at what girls of all ages can do when given the chance!

Involve Girls When Planning an Outing

Girl Scouts of all ages can discuss and answer questions like these (in time, girls can budget and make arrangements too).

  • What do we hope to experience?
  • Who will we want to talk to and meet? What will we ask?
  • Where are we interested in going?
  • When are we all available to go?
  • Will everyone in our group be able to go?
  • Are there physical barriers that cannot be accommodated?
  • What are visiting hours and the need for advance reservations?
  • What are our options for getting there?
  • What can we do now to get ourselves ready?
  • How will we earn the money?
  • What’s the availability of drinking water, restrooms, and eating places?
  • Where is emergency help available?
  • What safety factors must we consider?
  • What will we do as we travel?
  • What will we do when we get there?
  • What’s the least and most this trip could cost?

 

Families:

We know that support from troop families and clear communication between leaders and parents are key to a successful Girl Scout troop. Take these steps to connect with and engage troop parents.

Hold a First Parent Meeting

At the beginning of the Girl Scout year, hold a parent meeting. Set a tone of partnership. After all, you and parents have the same goal—an amazing Girl Scout experience for girls. Remember that over time, you’ll become a troop family and that rewarding friendships may form not just for the girls, but for you too.

See the Parent Meeting Packet for a sample welcome email, meeting agenda, and first meeting tips.

New families automatically receive the Family Connection (español), a magazine that helps them understand the benefits of Girl Scouts.

Keep the Parent Connection

Hold parent meetings occasionally to keep communication strong and families invested in the Girl Scout troop. These are good times to meet: at the beginning and end of a Girl Scout year, around the holidays (family celebration), just before the cookie program begins, before a camping trip or before working on highest awards, or any time a meeting makes sense.

New families automatically receive the Family Connection ( español ), a magazine that helps them understand the benefits of Girl Scouts.

Use the 4Her Resources

Troops excel when parents are part of the fun. Use the 4Her Flyer to ask parents for four hours of their time. Girls earn a patch when parents pitch in. Parents receive a certificate of appreciation. Read the 4Her Leader Sheet to learn more and celebrate 4Her troop helpers with a 4Her certificate.

Let Families Know About Financial Aid

Let families know that all girls can participate in Girl Scouts. Financial assistance is available to help pay for items like these:

  • First-year Girl Scout membership fees (subsequent year fees can be paid with troop funds)
  • Girl's Guide to Girl Scouting or girl Journey book
  • Basic uniform pieces
  • Local service unit events
  • Council-sponsored events (i.e., STEM events, Incredible Race, etc.)
  • Council-sponsored resident and day camps

Adult members may also apply for assistance to cover training fees, startup costs for books, and some uniform pieces.

Financial assistance can’t be used to cover costs a troop can’t handle, like big travel. If the troop can’t pay for an activity, that’s a sign! The troop should plan a less expensive activity instead. Or the troop can plan ahead. If the troop has already participated in the cookie program and the fall product program, the girls might consider a money-earning project to help cover their annual membership, activity, and event costs.

Use the Volunteer Toolkit

The Volunteer Toolkit is a great meeting-planning tool. But did you know it can help engage parents too? When a troop leader selects a meeting plan, parents see it in their “parent view.” They can’t make changes or view troop leader notes. But they can learn about troop activities and see the benefit of all you do for their Girl Scout.

Parents can also access supply lists to help with shopping or view activity instructions to help with a meeting. Seeing the troop’s plans may also spark other ideas for ways parents can contribute.

The Volunteer Toolkit also makes communicating with parents a snap. You can easily email the whole troop or send out already-prepared meeting summaries and reminders with a click of a button.

Use These Communication Tips

Parents are often helpful and supportive and appreciate the time you spend with their girls. But sometimes communication on both sides doesn’t go as planned. This is especially true if parents end up feeling defensive about their girl or about their role as a volunteer. Switching from “you” statements to “I” statements when talking to parents can help.

Avoid “you” statements like these:

  • Your daughter is responsible.
  • You’re not doing your share.

Switch to “I” statements like these:

  • I’d like to help your daughter learn to take more responsibility.
  • I’d really appreciate your help with registration.

Try following these other communication examples, if you need them:

If a parent or volunteer …

Respond like this:

Isn’t involved but asks how she can help and then seems to have no idea of how to follow through or take leadership even with small activities.

“I do need your help. Here is a checklist to help us prepare for our camping trip.”

Talks about all the ways you could make the troop better.

“I need your leadership and am interested in your ideas. Can you write them down so we can talk about ways you can help carry them out?”

Says things like, “Denise’s mother is on welfare, and Denise really doesn’t belong in this group.”

“I need your sensitivity. Girl Scouting is for all girls, and by teaching your daughter to be sensitive to others’ feelings, you help teach the whole group.”

Shifts her responsibility as a parent to you and is so busy with her own life that she has no time to help.

“I love volunteering with Girl Scouts and want to make a difference. If you could take a few moments to let me know what you value about what the troop is doing, I’d appreciate it.”

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