Tuesday, September 9, 2014

How to Create a Troop Environment that will Foster Friendships

Thankfully, most of us manage to find our own route to making friends. We strike up conversations, we join groups where we expect we will meet people and we inherit siblings and cousins who become our "starter" friends. For adults there are lots of articles and blogs on how to make friends.  But for kids, it can sometimes be a minefield.

I have met thousands of girls and adults who credit Girl Scouting for the friends that they have now, for the friends that came into their lives through Girl Scouts, and in many cases, for friendships that have lasted a lifetime*. 

The Girl Scout Promise and Law entreat us to "be a sister to every Girl Scout."  We often speak of the FUN and FRIENDSHIP of Girl Scouting, but what do we need to do to help foster a friendly environment for our girls?

In many instances girls will come into a Troop knowing at least one girl from their class, and sometimes Troops are formed with a number of girls who are already friends.  What about the girls who join a Troop -- or a short-term Scoutreach program -- and don't know anyone?  What about the girls who join a Troop where there may be pre-conceived ideas about  a girl (it could be any girl) who is different because she is "new," doesn't live in the neighborhood, doesn't attend the same school, looks different, speaks a different language,  has a disability, or whose behavior stands out from the others?  How do we make everyone welcome, accepted and part of a healthy group?  How do we help all the girls to make friends?

Until we get a Girl Scout magic wand, here are some practical tips to get started:

  • Vary your seating arrangements so that girls sit with different girls at each meeting.
  • Build in activities that allow each girl to share something about herself, and then find people who have similar traits or interests... Try to focus on shared likes and interests, rather than on body images.
  • Everybody Dance! And when the music stops, dance with someone new for the next round.
  • Play games, like "Compliment Beanbags" and "Cooperation Musical Chairs."
  • Do exercises that teach girls how to listen and remember that listening is not the same as waiting for your turn to talk!  Simon Says and Red Light/Green Light are good starters.    games.
  • Don't be afraid to talk about differences and what makes each child and each person beautiful and unique. 

Keep our Girl Scout traditions going:  Make new friends, and keep the old!

*My friend Sandy C. and I met in Brownies when she was in the second grade and I was in the first.  Our two Troops shared a school cafeteria. She was one of the big girls we Brownies admired.  I was delighted when a few months later I changed churches, and there she was!  Sandy was a built in friend and in my own Sunday School Class.  We have been friends ever since and have made the efforts to stay connected despite years and miles.

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