Event Debrief: Girls Leadership Institute on Raising Resilient Girls

GLI: Click here to see the PDF of the flier for this event.

Tonight, I had the chance to see a presentation from a group called the Girls Leadership Institute called  “Raising Resilient Girls.” Ms. Forsyth, Ms. Simpson, Ms. De Martini, Ms. De Santis, Ms. Egan, and I attended this talk by Simone Marean, executive director and co-founder of this national non-profit that runs summer programs and workshops for girls around the country. While some of the insights she presented were fairly commonsensical (e.g. girls don’t have to be “perfect” to grow up to be happy and successful), but Ms. Marean had some great skills and ideas to share. A lot of their work is focused on younger girls in kindergarten through eighth grade, but I think these skills and ideas still resonate with students of high school age.

My biggest take-aways from this talk were the following:

  • It’s okay for girls to have a wide range of emotions–other than just happy and annoyed–and it’s important to learn how to articulate them.
  • Fighting with a friend isn’t necessarily a bad thing! The idea of having a “BFF” with whom you have an endlessly harmonious relationship is a myth: conflicts are an opportunity for change, and it’s critical to learn how to navigate conflict fairly and productively.
  • One thing that parents and teachers can work on with girls is the idea of developing an “emotional muscle memory”: that is, parents and teachers can help girls rehearse the ways that they truly want to react to conflict and difficult situations in their relationships with friends. By getting more comfortable with identifying and articulating what they feel, girls can become more confident and successful in navigating their trickiest relationships.
  • It can be helpful to “role play” with girls, but do it in a particular way: let the girl play herself, and have the adult play the person who’s reacting to her words. That way, it feels less like the adult is giving advice and telling her what to do and more like an exercise in rehearsing how people might really react to the words she chooses and the body language she exhibits.

There were lots of terrific insights like these that I’m still reflecting on this morning. I really enjoyed this talk, and I’m so glad that so many members of our community could attend together and debrief together too.

On a side note, my favorite line of the evening came from an anecdote Ms. Marean recounted about a memorable night at one of their camps. The campers had started playing the game Truth or Dare, which was forbidden, and one girl came to report on herself and her fellow campers that they’d broken a rule. They came to her door at 2 AM, Ms. Marean said, and called out to her in a way that clearly meant there was trouble: “”‘Simooooooooooooone,’ they said, in a way that is never followed by the words, ‘there’s a cake here for you.'”

Okay, maybe not the funniest line in the world, but I like the idea of someone showing up and giving me a cake.

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