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Finding Balance in the Aftermath of a Natural Disaster

Japan’s catastrophic quake, tsunami, and nuclear reactor meltdown have people across the globe feeling great concern, sadness, and compassion for the people of Japan. Numerous organizations are helping out and many sites list how we can help. Our friend Tamami Kumagai, who traveled from Japan to Portland, OR, one year ago and became a trained GC facilitator, was in the midst of a Girls Circle session when last week’s quake occurred. She posted on our FB site how frightened the girls were. We are thinking of Tamami, the girls, and all of their families and friends during this very difficult time.

Back here in North America, the internet, facebook, twitter, television and radio provide constant updates on the situation. But with so much troublesome news, far beyond normal human experience, we can  become overwhelmed by the enormity of the situation. Children, teens, and adults are all vulnerable to becoming anxious, depressed, or triggered by such wild and random destruction.

How do we maintain compassion and care and yet have balance to prevent overwhelm or anxiety?

The National Institute for Mental Health identifies a number of steps adults can take to care for their children and for themselves.

Among these, three stand out as most important:

First, for children and adults, limit the amount of exposure to the disaster images. Children, especially, do not yet have sufficient capacity to tolerate the visual and auditory recordings of people and animals in distress. It’s important for adults, too, to be careful with the amount of these images being viewed. Our brains are designed to seek safety and survival, and are highly attuned to danger. For individuals and families who have previously endured sudden disasters, losses, or traumas, viewing of events such as this past week’s quake and tsunami can be troubling and taxing to the brain and nervous system.

Second, involve yourself, your loved ones, and your circles in positive activity. This can be anything from participation in raising funds to send to the international assistance organizations, to simply playing games together or going outside for walks in nature, getting creative in the kitchen or reading inspirational stories. The important task here is to intentional involve your mind, body, and spirit with something that has positive value and requires your focused attention. Positive activities promote positive neurochemical activity in the brain and body and replenish stressed minds and bodies. The Dalai Lama frequently states that an important task for humans is to cultivate a positive mind in order to reduce stress. In other words, we must often be proactive creators of positive experience in order to access the benefits.

Third, stress, overwhelm and anxiety are normal responses to abnormal circumstances. Natural disasters may or may not impact everyone. But for those who do feel anxious, talking helps. The fears, concerns, grief, or anxiety may affect everyday activities and relationships, and can be alleviated for many through sharing feelings with a friend, or within a circle of caring peers. In addition to talking about feelings and worries, it can be helpful to share stories of hope and recovery.

Take care,




March 15, 2011 at 2:56 pm 1 comment

Inspiring Work in Minnesota – Video

Twin Cities Public Television broadcast a piece at the end of September called Next Steps: Committing To Community which focuses on restoration and reintegration as it relates to the criminal justice system. Jason Sole is one of the featured child advocates and ex-offenders in the film.  Jason also works for the Girls Circle Association as a Boys Council Trainer.  His voice is a strong addition to this inspiring piece about the work being done for positive change within and around the justice system in Minnesota.


If you’d like to learn more about Jason or contact him directly please visit his personal website here:

Happy Holidays!

– Moorea (Training Coordinator for GCA)

December 14, 2010 at 8:40 pm Leave a comment

Mother Daughter Music

Music soothes the soul, cures the blues, energizes a room and inspires greatness… so it’s important to us at The Girls Circle Association to bring stellar music mixes into our trainings.  Kitty Tyrol, the Senior Training Manager for GCA, has offered to share the play list that she uses when training the Mother-Daughter Facilitator Training.  Is there a song that you’d like to hear at a training? Comment below with your song ideas. Happy Holidays!

Redemption Song Angélique Kidjo Oh Happy Day
Sedjedo (Featuring Ziggy Marley) Angelique Kidjo featuring Ziggy Marley Djin Djin
Precious Annie Lennox Diva
Why Annie Lennox Diva
It’s O.K. BeBe & CeCe Winans Different Lifestyles
I’ll Take You There BeBe & CeCe Winans Different Lifestyles
Wind Beneath My Wings Bette Midler Beaches (Music from the Motion Picture)
My Mother’s Eyes Bette Midler Divine Madness
God Bless the Child Blood, Sweat & Tears Blood, Sweat & Tears
Grazing in the Grass Boney James/Rick Braun Shake It Up
Cry on My Shoulder Bonnie Raitt Nick of Time
Nobody’s Girl Bonnie Raitt Nick of Time
Sara Smile Boyz II Men Throwback Vol.1
Sittin in my Room Brandy Waiting to Exhale
It’s Going to Take Sometime Carole King Carole King: The Ode Collection
Hurt Christina Aguilera Back to Basics
Reflection Christina Aguilera Mulan (An Original Walt Disney Records Soundtrack)
Beautiful Christina Aguilera Stripped
Teach Your Children Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young Déjà Vu
Free (Album Version) Deniece Williams The Best of Deniece Williams: Gonna Take a Miracle
You Gotta Be Des’ree I Ain’t Movin’
Life Des’ree Supernatural
Superwoman Dionne Warwick, Gladys Knight & Patti LaBelle Good Woman
Mercy Duffy Rockferry
Devotion (Live) Earth, Wind & Fire Gratitude
Oh Happy Day Edwin Hawkins Singers Good Morning Vietnam – A Soundtrack to the 60’s
From Where I Am Enya The Memory Of Trees
Hope Has A Place Enya The Memory Of Trees
On My Way Home Enya The Memory Of Trees
True to Myself Eric Benét True to Myself
Change the World Eric Clapton Clapton Chronicles: The Best of Eric Clapton
Save the Children Everette Harp What’s Going On
Here Comes The Sun George Benson The George Benson Collection
Save the Children Gil Scott-Heron Pieces of a Man
Make Yours a Happy Home Gladys Knight & The Pips Claudine (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Promises India Arie Acoustic Soul
Strength Courage Wisdom India Arie Acoustic Soul
Beautiful India Arie Acoustic Soul
You’re Beautiful James Blunt Back to Bedlam
Surrender Jane Monheit Surrender
Só Tinha de Ser Com Você Jane Monheit Surrender
Where Is the Love? Jesse & Trina Dead Presidents
I’m Sensitive Jewel Pieces of You
Let Me Jill Scott Timeless
At This Point In My Life Tracy Chapman New Beginning
Brown Eyed Girl Van Morrison The Best of Van Morrison [Mercury]
Exhale Shoop Shoop Whitney Houston Waiting to Exhale
Don’t Cry Baby Queen Latifah Trav’lin’ Light
Dear Life Anthony Hamilton Step Up (Original Soundtrack)
Keep Your Head Up Chaka Khan Madea’s Family Reunion (Music from the Motion Picture)
Dirty Little Secret Sarah McLachlan Afterglow
Angel Sarah McLachlan Surfacing
Full of Grace Sarah McLachlan Surfacing
What I Am Edie Brickell & New Bohemians Shooting Rubberbands at the Stars
Miss Independent Kelly Clarkson Thankful
Strength Courage Wisdom India Arie Acoustic Soul
Ain’t No Mountain High Enough Marvin Gaye and Tammy Tyrrell
Hope Faith Evans & Twista Hope – Single
I Hope You Dance Lee Ann Womack I Hope You Dance [Single]
My Mother’s Eyes Bette Midler Divine Madness
Baggage Mary J. Blige The Breakthrough (iTunes Version)
This Woman’s Work Maxwell Now
Ay Yo Melanie Fiona The Bridge
A Mother’s Prayer Melissa Manchester When I Look Down That Road
Pride and Joy Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble The Real Deal: Greatest Hits, Vol. 1
You Are the Sunshine of My Life Stevie Wonder Stevie Wonder: The Definitive Collection

December 9, 2010 at 7:08 pm Leave a comment

Sexually Charged Pop Culture Permeates an Ever-Younger Demographic – Part Two

Welcome to the second part of this discussion on the oversexualization of our youth. Check out Tuesday’s post for background on the topic.

We can’t know how these specific girls feel about it. But let’s remember that the name of the song is “Single Ladies” and here is a sample of some of the lyrics:

  • If you like it than you better put a ring on it, Don’t be mad once you see that he want it. [Twice during the dance they point at their ring fingers.]
  • You decided to dip (dip) And now you wanna trip (trip) Cause another brother noticed me I’m up on him (him) He up on me (me) Don’t pay him any attention
  • I got gloss on my lips (lips), A man on my hips (hips), Hold me tighter than my Dereon jeans
  • Here’s a man that makes me then takes me and delivers me, To a destiny, to infinity and beyond

In my experience growing up in the 80’s I understood what “sexy” felt like at a pretty young age. And as we all know, media representations of girlhood (toys, tv, film, advertising) are being sexed-up at a younger and younger age. So while these girls are amazing athletes, I just can’t believe they think the dance is as innocent as ballet. There is absolutely no shame in them executing this dance, but I question the adult choreographer.

So what effect do sexualized portrayals of youth have on kids? According to the American Psychological Association (APA), “The proliferation of sexualized images of girls and young women in advertising, merchandising, and media is harming girls’ self-image and healthy development.” They break down the negative effects into five categories:

  1. Cognitive and Emotional Consequences – Self-objectification has been repeatedly shown to detract from the ability to concentrate and focus one’s attention, thus leading to impaired performance on mental activities such as mathematical computations or logical reasoning (Frederickson, Roberts, Noll, Quinn, & Twenge, 1998; Gapinski, Brownell, & LaFrance, 2003; Hebl, King, & Lin, 2004). In the emotional domain, sexualization and objectification undermine confidence in and comfort with one’s own body, leading to a host of negative emotional consequences, such as shame, anxiety, and even self-disgust.
  2. Mental and Physical Health – Research links sexualization with three of the most common mental health problems of girls and women: eating disorders, low self-esteem, and depression or depressed mood (Abramson & Valene, 1991; Durkin & Paxton, 2002; Harrison, 2000; Hofschire & Greenberg, 2001; Mills, Polivy, Herman, & Tiggemann, 2002; Stice, Schupak-Neuberg, Shaw, & Stein, 1994;Thomsen,Weber, & Brown, 2002; Ward, 2004).
  3. Sexuality – Sexual well-being is an important part of healthy development and overall well-being, yet evidence suggests that the sexualization of girls has negative consequences in terms of girls’ ability to develop healthy sexuality.
  4. Attitudes and Beliefs – Girls and young women who more frequently consume or engage with mainstream media content offer stronger endorsement of sexual stereotypes that depict women as sexual objects (Ward, 2002;Ward & Rivadeneyra, 1999; Zurbriggen & Morgan, 2006).
  5. Impact on Others and on Society – The sexualization of girls can also have a negative impact on other groups (i.e., boys, men, and adult women) and on society more broadly. Exposure to narrow ideals of female sexual attractiveness may make it difficult for some men to find an “acceptable” partner or to fully enjoy intimacy with a female partner (e.g., Schooler & Ward, 2006).

There you have it folks. Let’s continue to talk to young girls about their own views of female identity and media images. We can’t protect them from the negative messaging they receive everyday, but we can teach them to celebrate childhood.


May 18, 2010 at 6:05 pm 1 comment

Sexually Charged Pop Culture Permeates an Ever-Younger Demographic – Part One

I’m willing to bet that the majority of our Girls Circle community has been saddened at some point by sexed-up portrayals of young girls – whether found in images of beauty pageants, “Bratz” dolls, or Miley Cyrus videos.  (Check out our post on Miley Cyrus’s Teen Choice Awards performance.)

It seems to be getting worse, but after watching this latest video, I have to wonder, how long can this go on?

Watch seven-year-old girls dance to Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” at the U.S. World of Dance competition:

I found this video on Huffington Post under the header, “Young Girls CRUSH Beyonce’s ‘Single Ladies'” and was… well, appalled. I read many of the comments to this video on Huffpost and while the majority are disturbed by it, many feel that we should all just “relax!” One commenter writes, “Oh come on people lighten up. If YOU think this is sexualizing young girls, then that’s on YOU, because for the little girls (and their parents) it is as innocent as ballet.”

I like that mindset. It’s nice to watch the dance through that lens. No shock, no concern, just celebrating the talent of five young girls who are obviously having a great time. A part of me wants to embrace that thinking.

There’s no question that if adult women performed this same dance in these same costumes it would be seen as very sexual. But people who would agree with the commenter above would say that it isn’t how we as adults view the dance that is important; it’s how the girls who are performing are affected by it. There could be debate on this alone – for example some worry about the actions of sexual predators – but for the sake of simplification, let’s assume this is true.

So do these young girls think this dance is “as innocent as ballet?” Or do they have a concept of the inherent sexuality in the clothing and movement? And if they could sense the provocative nature of it, what effect does that have on their sexual development, if any?

Give us your thoughts and check back on Thursday for Part Two of this discussion!


May 14, 2010 at 3:22 am 2 comments


These past few weeks, a stream of news stories nationally and across Europe have revealed staggering numbers of child sexual abuse cases.  The damage that pedophiles and abusers cause in the lives of girls and boys is deep, lasting, and tremendously harming. What about the policies and practices of the institutions and organizations responsible for the youth?  How damaging can these be?

A current case against the Boy Scouts of America for keeping secret “perversion files” documenting sex abusers is an example of failed policies that have the effect of protecting the organization over the needs of youth.  Sadly, we’ve seen story after story in the Catholic Church and many institutions in which abuse and violations have been kept hidden from the law.  These secrecy policies have not only added to the devastation in the lives of the kids who’ve been abused, but also prevented agencies of effective screening of abusers and prevented or constrained the work of police and authorities to stop abusers from accessing more youth.

The following is a message on our website regarding how to protect youth from abuse: Whatever the setting in which you work, please be sure you know the policies and protections in place for youth and where there are concerns or gaps in these policies, please make a point to address the policies with your co-workers and administrators.

How do you protect youth from potential abuse?

We recommend that every organization, school, or community setting that provides Girls Circle or Boys Council groups follows standard safeguard practices to protect all children and youth from any type of abuse or crime. Protective measures are essential steps to any solid program’s successful implementation.

Agencies should require all adults, staff and volunteer, who work with children and teens to obtain fingerprint clearances, to receive child abuse prevention and response training, including how to recognize signs of possible abuse, responsibilities as mandated reporters, and procedures to report suspicion of child abuse.

In every setting, we recommend that children and youth are never alone and isolated with one adult. Ideally, two adults or young adults co-facilitate the groups, or, when there is not capacity for two facilitators, at least one other responsible adult is on site and available before, during, and after each session. In addition, the on-site adult should have permission to come and go freely, albeit respectfully, from the group room.

If your setting’s policy is unknown to you, or inadequate, contact your state’s child welfare department to request recommended guidelines for staff and volunteers. Children’s and teen’s rights and safety policies should be posted, spoken, distributed, and reviewed with children, parents, and all staff on site. Administrator contact information should be given to all participants and families to report any concerns or problems.

The CDC has a downloadable resource guide for developing prevention policies within youth serving organizations:

Take Care!


March 23, 2010 at 6:30 pm Leave a comment

International Women’s Day – Recommended Reading & Viewing

Yesterday, March 8th was International Women’s Day, just as it has been every year since the early 1900s. It marks a global day of celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women  past, present and future. March is also National Women’s History Month.

We at the Girls Circle Association regularly come across many wonderful organizations, events, books, articles and videos that celebrate the achievements of women and we thought this was a perfect opportunity to share some of our recent discoveries with you.

Eve Ensler wrote the ground-breaking Vagina Monoluges, founded V-day, recently released her newest book, I Am an Emotional Creature, The Secret Lives of Girls Around The World and she also lectures around the globe.  Eve is a feminist hero and she recently gave a beautiful 20 minute talk at the Ted Conference on the “girl cells” in all of us. The lecture was titled, Embrace Your Inner Girl and we highly recommend it!


Maria Shriver, the First Lady of California wrote a wonderful article which can be read on Huffington Post called Celebrating History Can Inspire Us To Make It. The article is about National Women’s History Month which was started in California 32 years ago and about her work in this state and around the country towards women’s equality.  The overall theme of her article is “women, let’s keep on making history!”


New Moon Girls is an online community and print magazine for teen and pre-teen girls. They have a new empowering girls’ project about women in history where girls are encouraged to submit their stories.


Kitty Tyrol, the Girls Circle Association Senior Training Manager sent a book recommendation to the rest of the GCA staff that I’d like to share with you.  The book is called Three Cups of Tea and it was written by Greg Mortenson & David Oliver Relin (2006).  Here is a synopsis from Kitty: “Greg falls off a mountain and lands in a village, Korphe, the people save his life.  He sees that the children have no school building and in particular, there is no schooling for girls.  He promises to return one day and build them a school – and so his life’s journey and purpose is defined.  He builds schools (mostly for girls) throughout the mountain regions in Pakistan and Afghanistan.”

Here is an excerpt: “Once you educate the boys, they tend to leave the villages and go search for work in the cities,’ Mortensen explains.  ‘but the girls stay home, become leaders in the community, and pass on what they’ve learned.  If you really want to change a culture, to empower women, improve basic hygiene and health care, and fight high rates of infant mortality, the answer is to educate girls.”  “if the girls can just get to a fifth-grade level, everything changes.” (p. 209)


Those are some of our new favorite sites, videos, books, etc.  Please comment and share your new and old favorites with us as well.  Happy National Women’s History Month and Belated International Women’s Day.  My wish for us all today is to be bold, fearless and full of joy.

– Moorea Dickason, Training Coordinator for the Girls Circle Association.

March 9, 2010 at 7:26 pm 1 comment

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