For many girls, gathering as a troop, doing fun activities, and selling Girl Scout cookies can be a fun escape from reality, and can build important skills that will last a lifetime. However, sometimes, the problems from their life follow them into troop meetings and can really make them struggle. If you think you have a struggling troop member, this article is for you!
It can be really hard to know what to do when a girl in your troop is struggling, so I wanted to share a few of the things that have worked for me in helping my scouts.
Find the Missing Link for the Struggling Troop Member
If you are a leader, you’re going to run into situations where a member of your group can’t fully participate, whether she has spotty attendance, low sales, or can’t make it to big activities like camp. Before judging or blaming her, it’s vital to discern why these things are happening.
It’s possible that she doesn’t have everything that she needs. Maybe her parents don’t have the money for camp, she doesn’t have experience selling cookies and is shy, or her transportation is unreliable. Simple fixes like giving her a designated sales buddy who has more experience, waiving fees where you can, or arranging carpools can often solve issues that may otherwise be read as disinterest in the group.
Rally Around Her
If a girl in your group experiences a difficult life event, like the loss of a family member, a divorce in the family, or being diagnosed with a serious illness, it’s important to show her support in any way that you can. In times of trouble, extracurricular activities like scout programs can either be the first thing to go or the thing that brings joy into her life in a dark time.
If it’s something she is okay with the troop knowing about, it can be good to arrange a gesture that the girls can participate in. You could have the troop create cards, make a meal for her and bring it to her house together, or even fundraise together for any medical bills or other expenses she and her family may need covered. She will remember things like this for the rest of her life, and the girls in your troop will learn how to be there for someone when they’re going through a hard time.
Make Sure She’s Included
We all know what it’s like to feel excluded, especially as a young girl. Many times, being part of a troop can help with this feeling, but it can feel impossible when they’re left out there too. There are many ways to encourage inclusion among your troop, and it’s always best practice to try to integrate each member into the group as much as possible.
One way to do this would be to emphasize the strengths she brings to the team. For example, if she already earned a badge some other girls have yet to complete, you can have her act as the resident “expert” when it comes to that badge. You can also be cognizant of the groups that may form within your troop and use icebreakers and other paired activities to make sure everyone feels welcome.
Being intentional about prioritizing kindness within your group is essential, both through the way you instruct the girls to treat each other and in the way you treat them yourself. Prioritize positive talk about others in the group, and stop gossip when you come across it. Emphasize the value of each member of your troop, and inclusion of every scout will come more naturally.
Be Mindful of Trauma in the Struggling Troop Member
One of the most important things for people who work with children and teens is to be trauma-informed. It’s SO important to be able to spot the signs of potential abuse, grief, mental illness, or other difficult factors in a girl’s life.
Whether you know about what they are going through or not, it’s important to treat each girl with kindness, respect, and the benefit of the doubt. While it isn’t always the case, many girls you interact with will have stressful things in the background of their life that make lighthearted participation and high achievement difficult, and you may not notice any signs from the outside.
I really admire all of you for wanting to help each girl in your troop! By showing compassion to each struggling girl and providing a good example to the rest, you are impacting lives and making more of an impact than you will ever know.
Activity Booklet to Bring Girls Together
Enjoy every minute being a leader and continue to inspire your girls!