Archive for May, 2009

Alcohol and Safety

A 16 yr old young man in the S.F. Bay Area collapsed and died this past weekend at his neighbor’s party, where hard liquor and a keg were in ample supply. My heart and prayers go out to his family and friends and to the young neighbor who hosted the party, and to the young man himself who was just completing his sophomore year.

We have a powerful opportunity in Girls Circle and in Boys Council  to open up the topic of alcohol and partying, have conversations with youth regularly and listen carefully.

Girls have told us that they want to talk about drugs and alcohol.  They want to keep the issue fresh in their minds – the effects on their bodies, the risks of accidents and injuries, the potential of sexual assault, and tragically, even the potential for alcohol poisoning and death for themselves or their friends.  They just don’t want us telling them what to do.

A recent study by the Office of Applied Studies in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that generally speaking, youth who were exposed to prevention messages reported less alcohol use in the previous 30 days. The study also notes that parents hold conversations about the dangers and risks of alcohol more often with early teens than they do with middle or late teens. In addition, almost 40% of teens do not report having any such talk with a parent. For more information, see:
Here are some possible questions to kick off a conversation with your group or with teens you know:
 How are girls/guys deciding ___________(whether/when/what/how much) to drink?
 How do you decide?
 How do people feel after one drink? What percentage of your peers drink to get drunk, from your observations?
 What’s your body feel like when you drink, and the next day? Can anyone tell us what alcohol does to the _____________(brain, esophagus, stomach, liver, etc.)?
 For those of you who choose to drink, what are your hopes when you are drinking? What are your fears? What are your safety plans? Who do you share your plans with?
 How does alcohol affect your mood? You may know that alcohol is a depressant to the central nervous system. How do you think it affects ___________(teens, depressed teens, people taking other legal or illegal drugs)?
 How is alcohol use – whether your own or someone else’s use – affecting your relationships?
 Where/how is alcohol doing harm in your life or the lives of people close to you?
 Thinking about safety, what is the number one thing you want to do now related to alcohol use?
What are your best questions to get the alcohol and safety conversations going? ~ Beth


May 26, 2009 at 8:27 pm Leave a comment

Check-In – Favorite Time in Girls Circle

Do you or the girls in your Girls Circle group love Check-In time?
Check-In is the third step in a Girls Circle group. It’s that time when each girl has a turn to hold the talking piece and share what’s on her mind and in her heart – thoughts, feelings, concerns, ups and downs. Her group members offer nonjudgmental listening without interruption. Without a doubt, Check-In is one of the most highly valued parts of Girls Circle.  Girls say they need  to talk about what’s going on in their lives, and the benefits are plentiful:  they find a LOT of relief,  a better mood, that they’re not alone, that they have experiences and wisdom to share that will help other girls, and that people care about them.

Check-In has its’ roots in the council processes inherent in the practices of indigenous people of the Americas.  Native Americans have traditionally come together in council to give voice to thoughts and feelings, deep listening, understanding and problem solving.

Facilitators can build on girls’ positive views of Check-In by simply passing the talking piece around the circle  a second time whenever time permits. This empower girls  to share more if they choose to do so. Knowing the opportunity exists can improve a girl’s likelihood of expressing herself more fully if she needs to address an issue that’s concerning her.
Remember, talking actively promotes the release of positive chemicals that promote connection and well being in females.  No surprise, then, that girls look forward to their Check-In time.
Go Check-In!  ~ Beth

May 21, 2009 at 3:33 am 1 comment

Girls and Bullying

Has anyone noticed the plethora of stories and articles out there about “mean girls” or girls and bullying?  I was reading this one article in a Boston Globe publication about 5th grade girls and in the article it stated  “It’s very typical for girls at this age to be mean, nasty, and downright rotten to each other.”   REALLY?  I always feel like I’m defending a girls inner nature – that deeper part of her that wants to be connected and wants to be loved and wants to be inclusive and friendly.

I remember this one story I heard at a Girls Circle training about a school who was having terrible problems with girls and bullying.  So, they decided to gather all the biggest “bully” girls and put them on a LEADERSHIP TEAM to figure out how to stop bullying.  Guess what happened?   Almost overnight, those girls began to think of ways to influence other girls to stop bullying, to improve communication and to stop hurting each other.  Another GREAT STORY about focusing on utilizing the strength-based approach!   And we have heard countless stories about how in Girls Circle, girls stopped bullying – or girls changed from MEAN girls to CARING girls or at the least RESPECTFUL girls.

So then…….is bullying “inherent” in girls?  Or are we just focusing and pointing a lens at the wrong side of girls behavior?  Because what I’m noticing and hearing all around the country is that it dosen’t take long for girls to change these behaviors if we, as adults, believe they can and provide opportunities for them to do so.  So, are these behaviors really inherent in girls? Can’t the biggest bully girl become the best leader?  I say YES.   What say you?  ~Giovanna

May 15, 2009 at 3:05 pm 6 comments

Girls Circle and Climate Change

When we’re talking about the relational and social climate, sometimes climate change can be a good thing. For girls, climate change can be an act of courage and connection.

Here’s one example of how girls act to change a school’s social climate when they are provided with a format that honors and fosters this capacity within them.

A few years back, in a San Francisco Bay Area school, I had the opportunity to pilot a Girls Circle program for elementary school girls, with support of a supportive principal and four volunteer counselor-interns.

The goal was to improve the third, fourth, and fifth grade girls’ relational climate and to stem their everyday conflicts, hurt feelings at school.

Multiple groups met during lunch periods with a facilitator, using the “Friendship” Activity Guide. In three weeks time, the yard duty staff and teachers noticed that arguments were fewer, and more rapidly settled.  A fourth grader found her power, saying,

No, I won’t leave her behind to be your friend. I want to be your friend AND her friend, and I don’t want to choose one of you over the other, I like you both!”

I noticed how eager, ready, and relieved these girls were for a forum in which they could improve their relationships.

It’s very hard for kids to individually challenge social norms or reach out to less popular or bullied kids.  Everyone is afraid they might be the next target.  Whether being excluded, cyberbullying, sucked into the rumor mill, or brought down in a fight, girls can appear to be caught up in cruelty. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t seeking a way to create and live in a kinder world. By offering a program that provides them with permission, expectation, and tools to connect, girls typically respond quickly, interacting in more healthy and inclusive ways.

What are your stories of climate change? Have you noticed the readiness, relief, and leadership in girls once they have a Girls Circle? – Beth

May 12, 2009 at 5:16 am Leave a comment

Mental Health Awareness Day & Girls Circle!

Hats off to all facilitators nationwide who are working with our girls! Mental health practitioners in prevention and intervention settings across the country are appreciating the Girls Circle program and utilizing it as either a core group therapy model OR as an adjunct to individual or group therapy. The Lorain County Mental Health Board in Lorain, Ohio, for example, recently sponsored a training and now have several clinicians facilitating Girls Circle in their local school-based mental health programs. The circle is helping to break down isolation amongst girls, reduce conflict, promote leadership and assertiveness, and now the girls don’t want circles to end! Another facilitator working in a detention facility notes, “Girls get to experience how much they have in common regardless of mental health issues, family history, ethnic background, etc. I think the groups work especially well for girls with mental health issues because there’s a tendency for them to start to feel isolated and the groups pull them out of themselves and teach them how to connect with others in a meaningful way. Some girls clearly struggle with sharing something real from within, while others are learning how to step outside of themselves and really listen to someone else… when they can help each other do this, and everyone learns something, it’s powerful stuff.” Here’s to the health of all of our girls! ~Giovanna

May 7, 2009 at 8:51 pm 1 comment

Just Because

Just Because.

Two words that have enabled  hundreds upon hundreds of girls to re-claim their identities for themselves and boldly refute any assumptions or stereotypes others  have imposed on them.

Just Because I’ve had two miscarriages doesn’t mean I’m a slut…Means I’m not ready for motherhood.”

“Just Because I’ve used drugs, doesn’t mean I’m an addict, means I sometimes numb my pain…”

“Just Because I’m in a foster home, doesn’t mean I’m not worthy, means I get a new start…”

“Just Because I broke the law, doesn’t mean I’m bad, means I made a mistake, doesn’t mean you can judge me, because you don’t know me, and you don’t know what I’ve been through.  Means I am becoming whole…”

These are excerpts from some of the poems that girls have written and shared in Girls Circle groups, and graciously shared with us.  Artist and poet Esther Kamkar of Palo Alto, CA, shared the “Just Because” poem form with us, so that we could offer the poem as an exercise in our Girls Circle “Relationships with Peers” Facilitator Activity Guide.

Imagine, at 15 years of age, claiming your right to define your own identity according to your truth. This is an extraordinarily powerful exercise that inevitably brings tears to my eyes.  These are the kinds of tears brought up by recognition of the burdens and injustices some girls have endured, and by the privilege of witnessing their tender capacity for healing, compassion, strength, and love.

Last night, Giovanna and I attended an event with Girls Inc. of  Northern Sacramento Valley in which eight members of a high school Girls Circle group courageously read their poems to a crowded room full of adults.  One girl ended her poem with this:

Just Because I look together, like everything is okay, you don’t know what’s eating me up inside, how on some days I just want to die…but Just Because I have those dark days, doesn’t mean I don’t love you, Means I do love you, and I want to invite all of you to be my family, and I want to be a part of yours’, too.”

Just Because girls are young, doesn’t mean they can’t turn lives around, means they blow my mind.

May 5, 2009 at 2:51 pm 4 comments

Girls love Girls Circle

Girls love Girls Circle. Having heard possibly thousands of stories over the past 14 years, I make this statement with 100% confidence.

Isn’t it great to know that we have a way to offer a safe environment where girls want to be? Occasionally, I have the privilege of visiting a Girls Circle, and I ask the girls what they want to say about the group – how is it? what do they think of it? – they say they like it, a lot. Sometimes they say they love it. Always, honestly always, they say that it makes them feel better because they get to talk about things they were carrying around inside, they get to hear other people’s experiences, they get to express themselves creatively, and most of all, they are respected in the group.

Yesterday, I visited a group in Santa Rosa, CA – high school girls referred into the GC group for legal reasons. All of them laughed about how angry they were at first when they had to come to this group, they thought it would be a horrible punishment….and then how quickly they realized they liked the group. One said, “it helps me feel better after a bad week so when I go home I’m in a better mood,” and another said, “I think about a lot of stuff in a different way when I’m here, and then I think about it sometimes before I go and do stuff now, so I think it’s good”. One girl said, “I’ve never had adults respect me the way I am respected here – ever. Now I know what it feels like to be respected.”

It’s hard for me to pinpoint the thing I love most about Girls Circle, but I’m going to try here. It’s knowing just how much girls thrive in respectful environments, very quickly, and they respond in turn by extending that kindness, caring and humor with each other. It’s a positive, deep, genuine kind of caring, the kind that counts, and it characterizes a whole group of girls and facilitators all together connected, interacting, understanding, being there for one another. That doesn’t sound so complicated, but in group after group, girls tell us that there is no where else they receive that kind of respect. Fortoo many, home is a place to survive until they can or must be out on their own. For others, there are really upsetting things they have to manage everyday, and their Girls Circle group is like the home where they can bring their whole selves, lay it out if they choose, be accepted, and find they’re not so upset or angry at the end of the day. They find their own ways, but are able to do so in healthier ways because they’ve been there for each other. Even when home is stable and supportive, school and peer groups and romantic relationships affect how girls feel and the decisions they make. And what girls say is that when they have that acceptance and caring in their Girls Circles, they feel better….think better…and make better decisions on their own behalf.

I love the fact that each girl has such unique ideas, perspectives, desires. I love seeing them gradually bring more of their dreams and wishes and talents to the fore. I love that they are often careful to hold their thoughts, feelings, opinions close and not let others in until they really start to trust that the group is not there to use them but to accept them. They’re smart and they know they need to be careful. They’re also wise and they know authenticity when they feel it, and this is where the power of the group comes to life. Girls participate at the pace that’s right for them, and there are always girls who lead the way with their energy and willingness, and make it easier for others to open up.

Girls have such enormous hearts and empower each other toward safe, thriving, connected lives. They are open to answers inside and wisdom from their Girls Circle group, and they take action as soon as they start experiencing the connection in the group. How awesome is that?

May 1, 2009 at 2:28 am 3 comments

Girls Circle