Creating a Safe Space for Girls
Girl Scout research shows that girls are looking for an emotionally safe environment, where confidentiality is respected and they can express themselves without fear. The following sections share tips on creating that environment.
Supporting Each Girl
Girls look up to their volunteers. They need to know that you consider each of them an important person. They can survive a poor meeting place or an activity that flops, but they cannot endure being ignored or rejected. Recognize acts of trying as well as instances of clear success. Emphasize the positive qualities that make each girl worthy and unique. Be generous with praise and stingy with rebuke.
Girls are sensitive to injustice. They forgive mistakes if they are sure you are trying to be fair. They look for fairness in the ways responsibilities are shared, in handling of disagreements, and in responses to performance and accomplishment. When possible, consult girls as to what they think is fair before decisions are made. Explain your reasoning and show why you did something. Be willing to apologize if needed. Help girls explore and decide for themselves the fair ways of solving problems, carrying out activities, and responding to behavior and accomplishments.
Girls must be sure you will not betray a confidence. Show girls you trust them to think for themselves and use their own judgment. Help them make the important decisions in the group. Help them correct their own mistakes. Help girls give and show trust toward one another. Help them see how trust can be built, lost, regained, and strengthened.
Conflicts and disagreements are inevitable, and when handled constructively they actually enhance communication and relationships. At the very least, Girl Scouts are expected to practice self-control and diplomacy. Shouting, verbal abuse, or physical confrontations cannot be tolerated in the Girl Scout environment.
When a conflict arises between girls, or a girl and a volunteer, get those involved to sit down together and talk in a nonjudgmental manner. (Each party may need a few days or a week to calm down before doing this.) Although talking in this way can be uncomfortable, it lays the groundwork for working well together in the future.
DO NOT spread your complaint around to others under any circumstances—it will likely cause embarrassment and anger.
If a conflict persists, be sure you explain the matter to your volunteer support team. If the supervisor cannot resolve the issues satisfactorily (or if the problem involves the supervisor), the issue can be taken to the next level of supervision, or contact your council if you need extra help.
Girls want someone who will listen to what they think, feel, and want to do. So, listen to the girls. Don’t have a response ready; listen first. Speak your mind openly when you are happy or concerned about something, and encourage girls to do this, too. Help girls see how open communication can result in action, discovery, better understanding of self and others, and a more comfortable climate for fun.