Listen to What Girls Say About Healthy Living
Listening to what girls say has always been an important part of the Girl Scout experience for volunteers. In the last few years, the Girl Scout Research Institute (GSRI) has helped us listen to what girls say on issues of great importance to them—the Internet, emotional and physical safety, and now healthy living. GSRI released a study titled, The New Normal? What Girls Say About Healthy Living, which focused on girls' unique perspectives. For girls, being healthy is as much about emotional well-being as it is about eating well and being fit.
The New Normal research study points to a number of ways volunteers can help girls make positive decisions about their health, whether those girls are beginning Daisy Girl Scouts or entering high school. Here are some ways you can translate the latest Girl Scout research into action:
- Really listen to girls, not just to their words, but to their body language, their tone, and even what's left unsaid. Give them time and opportunities to explain what they mean, what they want, what they dream of. And make sure you give them time to listen to each other, too. Sometimes, they don't need advice, just a caring glance or word. A Girl Scout group can provide the support system that everyone needs, to deal with ordinary stresses and extraordinary traumas.
- Work with your group to come up with troop snack menus that include healthy choices. Vegetable platters that are artistically arranged can be very appealing to girls. Create nutritious multicultural meals together. Talk about the importance of breakfast—the research tells us that 60 percent of girls skip that meal at least once a week, and nearly 20 percent every day. Plan a breakfast meeting on a weekend once in a while.
- Don't call it exercise—call it fun. Include some kind of physical activity in every troop meeting. Girls can hike and talk at the same time. They can plan and work on a community garden as a service project. Pulling out weeds can be a great workout. A trip to the mall can include some power walking. Use a pedometer to measure steps and encourage girls to go for a personal best.
- Motivate girls to act on the health knowledge they already have. They may know what a balanced diet looks like, but they or their families may not have the time to prepare healthy meals. Suggest a project that involves creating healthy, easy-to-prepare and tasty meals. Consider making this a family meeting, so everyone can benefit.
- Encourage girls to get involved in formulating their school's wellness policy. Every school district that receives federal school meal funds is required to have such a policy in place. Use troop meetings to help girls develop skills—brainstorming, public speaking, and problem-solving—they can use in their school health advocacy work.
- Be a positive role model for the girls in your troop by showing that you not only know how important fitness and healthy eating are, but you translate your knowledge into action. When you use effective stress management techniques and make sure that you have your own social support system, you are setting a great example for the girls who are always watching you.
For more information see The New Normal? What Girls Say About Healthy Living.