Supporting Girls' Mental Health as a Troop Leader
Getting your troop back together—either virtually or in person—might come with a lot of feelings this year. Beyond reaching out to families about the meeting schedule and coordinating snack duty, ensuring everyone adheres to safety guidelines is obviously top of mind for volunteers. It’s an understatement to say keeping girls safe these days entails a lot more than making sure your First Aid kit is fully stocked!
But when it comes to your Girl Scouts’ health and wellbeing, physical health is only part of the picture. These are stressful times for everyone, but girls, especially, are struggling with their mental health. Back in 2019, already more than a third of girls in our country said they felt extreme anxiety daily. Since COVID hit, the situation for many girls has only gotten worse.
As a volunteer with your troop, you have a real opportunity to make a difference. Here’s how you might help.
Check in with them.
Starting each meeting with an open chat, where everyone can freely talk about what’s been on their mind—without judgment—can create emotional trust and set the stage for your Girl Scouts to come to you if they or someone close to them is in trouble.
Let them know you’re human, too.
Even the littlest kids are smart, and they’ll see right through you if you’re pretending to be happy all the time. While we’re not advising sharing details of your private life, such as a rocky relationship or worries over your bank balance (never appropriate!), it can be helpful and even important to let girls know that you feel sad, worried, or anxious at times, too. All of these feelings are normal and healthy. Showing them how to deal with challenging emotions in healthy ways, rather than bottling them up, will help them for years to come.
Go easy on expectations.
If your Girl Scouts are feeling stressed or anxious, they might be having trouble paying attention or simply may not seem interested in activities you thought they’d be into. They might take longer to do a task than expected or forget things they were supposed to bring to a meeting. Let. It. All. Go. Instead of scolding girls out of frustration or anger, calling them out in front of their friends, or excluding them from an activity as “punishment,” calmly ask them what’s going on, and ask how you, and the troop as a whole, can help make things go better next time. You know the saying about flies and honey? It’s true.
The badges, activities, and adventures are, of course, some of the most wonderful things about Girl Scouting—but offering a supportive sisterhood of Girl Scouts who take notice and take care of one another is at the heart of everything we do. Just by showing up and being there for your troop week after week, you’re providing an important source of stability and comfort in your Girl Scouts’ lives, and that’s something to be proud of. For more information on how to help girls through these challenging times, check out Raising Awesome Girls, or contact your council directly if there’s a specific situation where you need support. We’re in this together.