Whether you know it or not, your scouts are likely dealing with some stress during these complicated times. Kids are internalizing everything that’s going on in the world, from the war to the economy to the pandemic, and both young girls and older children may not know how to cope with that much stress, especially if they don’t have proper emotional support.
There are so many real-life skills your girls will learn as a result of the time you spend together in your meetings and on your trips. Why not spend some of that time teaching them about how to relieve any stress they may be feeling? Being in a leadership role puts you in a unique position to be able to pass on what you’ve learned!
The Best Ways to Relieve Stress
Mindfulness is one of the most important resources troop leaders can teach their girls when it comes to stress relief. It is the practice of being fully aware of your surroundings and paying attention to your experiences in the present moment.
For example, you could have your scouts go outside in the sunshine and hold some silly putty in their hands. Ask them to sit silently (if they can!) and feel the putty in their hands. Play gentle music, help them take deep breaths, and encourage them to feel the sun on their face, smell the grass, and think about the squishy feeling of the putty in their hands, as well as the yoga mats under their legs. You could also encourage mindfulness exercises on long walks or during other girl scout activities.
You can explain to them how mindfulness and deep breathing exercises can be used in day-to-day life to help them calm down and get out of their heads when they’re feeling anxious.
Some physical activity is already involved in Girl Scouts, whether you’re hiking, camping, or working on earning badges that are activity-centered. You can either incorporate principles of stress management into your planned trips, or incorporate more, like sports, team-building games, a dance party, or workouts. If you’re doing these things out in nature, that’s even better!
Use this opportunity to explain the relationship between exercise and its real benefits for mental health. If you make it a positive experience, you can teach them at least one healthy way to manage their stress for the rest of their lives.
Sharing About Life
Your stressed-out scouts likely need lots of peer and mentor support. Incorporating ways they can share about their own lives and what’s going on with their family members with the group can be very beneficial.
One positive way you can do this is to have a “rose and thorn” conversation starter once per week or month where each girl shares a positive and negative thing that has happened since they last got the chance to share. Make sure you pay attention to their emotional cues, and
This works with older girls and younger girls, and it will help your group become close-knit. Over time, they will create habits of sharing both the good and difficult parts of their lives with others, which can definitely help relieve the stress of all their troubles over their life.
Hobbies are a great way to relieve stress that is naturally woven into the activities your group will do together. Whether your girl scout troop is interested in music, STEM, running cookie booths, philanthropy, a camping trip, horseback riding, or any other special activities, being part of your troop will help them get their minds off whatever might be bothering them, build relationships with other scouts, and work out some angst they may have internally.
I share a lot of arts and crafts on my page, which is one way this can take form, but truly any activity you complete together that your girls enjoy can be a part of their stress-relieving hobbies. It can be a good discussion to ask your troop members which they find the most calming and discuss how that discovery relates to the rest of their lives.
One last practice that’s highly recommended to lower stress levels by mental health professionals is journaling. One way that you could work this in is to give each girl a “Girl Scout Notebook” at the beginning of the school year and encourage them to bring it to your meetings. Not only can they keep all their important information about events, badges, and group needs in there, you can also set aside times to journal, or give them journal prompts in your meetings to help them get started.
Writing is so cathartic for most people, and your girls won’t forget the emphasis you put on processing their feelings both inside and outside of your troop meetings. It can be so difficult for younger girls scouts to learn how to process the events in their life, and big feelings they might be having. As a part of an artistic exercise, you can also teach them how to create artistic journal entries where they weave together drawings and words to represent parts of their life and their feelings and have the option to share and discuss in the group.
Just be sensitive to any scouts who may be uncomfortable sharing personal information like their journals. You never know what a scout could be going through, so ensuring privacy for everyone is extremely important to help them relieve their stress in a safe environment.
Practice Stress Relief With Your Troop
If there are any other things you personally use to work through your stress, feel free to introduce those things to your troop and explain how they can be helpful for the rest of their lives. Even if your scouts only pick up one thing, that’s a tool they will always be able to use to make their lives better.