Let’s face it: trying to juggle troop matters alongside family responsibilities and work during a pandemic is a serious challenge. So what do you do when you want to give your all to the girls who look up to you but your usual troop activities feel like a lot right now?
Remember, troop leader: everyone responds to crises differently and has their own unique circumstances to work through. Not everyone will keep their troop moving forward in the same way as they have throughout the year, and that’s nothing to feel guilty about!
Of course, if you’re able to do more—and it feels good for you—then, by all means, hold virtual meetings and use the tech available to you to engage your troop. But if not, use these tips from our Volunteer Experts to make an impact with the time you do have.
Small gestures go a long way.
You can still be a presence in your girls’ lives even when you can’t meet in person! Many of us think about meetings and activities as the ways to engage our girls, but if you’re feeling inundated right now, stick with something straightforward and heartfelt. A quick phone call to the families of your younger girls or texting an uplifting meme with your older girls can go a long way in showing you care.
“I am always in contact with my families just making sure they are OK,” says Khadijah Pinckney, a Daisy troop leader with Girl Scouts of Northern New Jersey. “We are always communicating through text, Facebook, and email. And the only thing I am asking from our troop is to stay safe and continue to follow social distancing rules that are in place.”
Use shared resources.
How can you continue to offer your troop fun Girl Scout experiences and still give yourself the time or space you need right now? Tap into shared resources, like virtual events from your local council and other councils, or share the badge videos found on Girl Scouts at Home with troop families.
“Our council has put a lot of effort into offering at-home challenges and daily Facebook live sessions that vary from planting an indoor garden to introducing the horses at horse camp,” says Julie Fuqua, a multi-level troop leader with Girl Scouts Spirit of Nebraska. “I have reminded parents and girls about these activities just to keep them doing Girl Scout activities. I also sent out some badge work for them to work on as well.”
“I have reached out weekly to each of my girls—via their parent's emails, as they don't have email accounts yet—and given them virtual activities to do at home,” says Dylan Newton, a Cadette troop leader with Girl Scouts of West Central Florida. “For me, having virtual work for them makes it easy ... to still provide my girls with enriching experiences but not tie us all down to yet another Zoom meeting! I recommend using your resources and [sending] out emails or packets for your older girls. Minimum effort on your part, but maximum benefit for your girls!”
Give your troop space to interact and feel supported.
For busy troop leaders with older girls, sometimes all you need to do is set the time or space for them to connect, and they’ll can take it from there.
“We created a shared drive for our Cadette troop,” says Denise Montgomery, a Cadette troop leader with Girl Scouts of San Diego. “Knowing that middle school girls love inspiring quotes and that inspiration and encouragement are particularly needed right now, we created a document called Quotes We Love. We populated the document with some favorite quotes by women and girls.”
“[My girls] are leaving inspirational messages and pictures on the sidewalks outside their homes with colorful chalk,” shares Cheryl Lentsch, a multi-level troop leader with Girl Scouts Spirit of Nebraska. “These activities can be done independently, yet they still unite us in spirit.”
And if you’re thinking about virtual meetings, consider a format that may be more unstructured than what you’re used to. “As a troop of ten Cadettes who are not interested in badges [right now] but do like getting together, I host a virtual meeting and the girls get on when they can and they just get to talk and help each other through this quarantine,” says Trina Floyd of Girl Scouts of Western Ohio.
Lean on troop volunteers and families.
Concerned about the time and energy you’ll spend organizing troop activities? With the help of your fellow troop volunteers or girls’ families, those activities might not be as heavy a lift as you think. Just as you’d normally ask for help throughout the troop year, have a quick conversation with families about your girls’ goals during this time and outline how families might pitch in to help the girls achieve the goals.
“We have asked parents to do specific things, like badge tracking, and we have asked in an open-ended way for parents to let us know how they would like to help and any ideas they have,” says Denise. “One parent shared her idea for the girls to virtually interview women leaders and role models who are perhaps more available and accessible right now than they would be otherwise. She is going to spearhead this effort as her time permits.”
“I'm asking for families to keep me updated on their girls' status and to print out, scan, or email me their girls' completed badge requirements so that I can mark them and order the badges for the girls,” says Dylan. “I plan on mailing their badges to them if we aren't able to meet before school is out at the end of May."
Take care of yourself, troop leader—these are unprecedented times, and your best is enough, even if it looks different right now.