23 Sep Starting a Girls or Boys Club
For whatever reason, you may consider starting a club for your son or daughter. There are many benefits. You will get to know their friends. You will help them build friendships with like minded children. You will both have fun, but also learn a lot. You have a natural opportunity to provide enjoyable activities with a flavor of formation. What do I mean by this? Children can have a lot of fun and learn things through school activities, community programs and other social events. Your club is unique in that you tailor it for your child and their friends. Not only do you provide a variety of activities that engage them over time, but you have a natural opportunity to address all kinds of topics with these children when they come over. For example, the need to respect your home and put their shoes and jackets in an orderly place, as well as take responsibility for any messes they make while at your home. You can also touch upon the need to be yourself and not cave into peer pressure, the importance of sticking to your values even if others around you do not, etc. You can talk about whatever you are most concerned about for that age group in little bits and bites over a snack, before a game, at the end of the club meeting or whenever you choose in a friendly, attractive manner. You gauge their reaction, adjust to their needs, accommodate their stage of life. What an incredible opportunity presents itself for you.
How do you get started? First, decide who in your family should benefit? Do they have friends you would want to join this club? Or do you know some moms, even if only one, who has a child the same age and stage as yours? Even with just one other mom, you can begin a club. For the purpose of this write up, I will refer to girls’ clubs, as typically moms run girls clubs and dads lead boys club, although anything is possible. I know one place where girls of all ages, tween to grandmas, join for a night of great snacks and drinks to watch a super movie like Pride and Prejudice. I also know of another group that gets young adults together, guys and girls, to have card game tournaments, like euchre. Whatever you choose start with your child’s age and stage to determine what is most appropriate. Think about their likes, interests, talents, aptitudes etc. See if any of your girlfriends, neighbors or acquaintances with kids the same age would be interested in lending you a hand.
Figure out a day or evening that would be suitable, say a Saturday from 2-4 p.m. or a Friday from 7-8:30p.m. There are no rules here. Times should suit your whole family and can be as long or as short as you want. Determine the frequency, ie. once a week during the summer months or once a month during the school year, or only on professional development days at school, or whatever you choose. Again there are no rules to the equation. Decide if you will host all or if other moms would rotate homes.
Now talk to your spouses to ensure they are supportive of this venture. Be frank in explaining that you want to help your daughter have a supportive environment to offset negative peer pressure, but more importantly to build character and great friendships with like minded girls. Explain where in your house you would host it and how you hope the other members of your family would accommodate. For example I have hosted girls clubs in my kitchen and then can allow my family to watch a movie in the living room. I have also hosted girls clubs on the main floor when my other kids are having their usual computer night or watching a movie downstairs. Regardless, your husband’s honest feedback is important. If he is not on the same page as you, keep tweaking until he is, because it must all work for the betterment of your family, not for added complications. If homes are not available, consider asking your local school, church or library for space and what the rental requirements are.
Now you have a time, frequency, location and girls in mind. You can choose to run it yourself if you have the energy, aptitude and inclination. Not all moms do and it’s not a big deal. Even if you provide the venue, you don’t have to run the program. If you have other moms willing to help, it’s an added bonus because between you all you can divide the number of get-togethers, brainstorm what can be done and who will do it, all sharing the load. If you have few or no helpers, it’s not a dead deal. Instead you can still go forward if you can think of acquaintances, neighbors, and friends whom you could invite to lead an activity. For example, consider asking a woman at school who loves gardening, a lady at the fabric store who could come and teach basic sewing by hand, a cosmetician at the pharmacy who could do basic skincare for teens, someone at your hair salon who could talk about hair care, a teenager from your neighborhood who would teach braiding, or a neighbor who could share their passion for music, literature, antiques, gourmet cooking etc. Be creative. Be resourceful.
I know some girls clubs that super enjoy creating an invitation with all the dates and topics for the year, the time, place and contact info. It’s certainly an option. I find it daunting to come up with so much ahead of the game. Personally, I enjoy setting a list of dates, times and places to inform prospective club members, with no indication as to what they will do. I find they always come with an open mind, full of curiosity and eagerness to begin. Not even my own daughter knows the plan until it actually unfolds in the group setting. This has not only maintained higher attendance, but it allows me to find someone to lead the group for that whole month rather than before the year begins. I also can gauge the group’s interest and accommodate as we go to provide the variety they need but also maintain their interest.
What kind of activities would you plan? Good question. A lot should reflect the interests of the girls attending, starting with your daughter. It’s not a matter of imposing your game plan, but rather piquing their interests and expanding their horizons at a pace and in a way suitable to their age and stage. As a result it’s good that the age spread not be too large so that the girls will have more in common. If you have a large age spread, which can happen, then ideally you want to ensure everyone enjoys the activity with no girls feeling it’s hard for them or not appropriate. Older girls can always help younger girls. If the group is large enough, all can meet but then subdivide so that one group uses the kitchen, while the other group does something in the living room. Again, no rules, you figure out what would work best with the girls and space you have. I have had groups as small as 3 girls, up to a group of 25 girls split into two groups using a school kitchen and gym.
So what can you do? Endless possibilities but here are some ideas from girls clubs: book club (for avid readers), movie club for teens (to evaluate them, build criteria and hang out), fashion club for teens, cooking club, sewing club, etc. Your group does not necessarily have to zero in on a particular theme as mentioned. Honestly, it comes down to the interests of the girls attending and your resources to pull it off. I enjoy a girls club that has something different each month. Topics have included: hair care (learning how to braid each other, how to use a curling iron, how to make an updo etc.), origami, baking cookies, muffins, desserts, cooking, planting flowers into a garden pot, planting herbs and learning what they are for, basic sewing of buttons and hem, arts & crafts, nail care, a session on etiquette by a cadet, Mother’s Day tea and brunch, outing to a museum, historical site or beautiful gardens, horseback riding, swimming at a pool, bike riding, a campfire, picnic, game of soccer or other sport, writing a journal, macrame, beading, making jewelry, fashion savvy regarding colors, styles, etc., learning how teen boys think (using For Young Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn), how to properly iron clothes, catching a high school play etc. The topic can be absolutely anything that uplifts, equips or inspires.
Have your girls brainstorm at the first event to give you ideas. Whatever you choose, activities should provide enjoyment, connection and over time build the girls’ interests, talents and qualities. So spice up your schedule with a variety of events that please everyone. I know one year I had a club that met once a month during the school year at my home on a Friday night. We discovered a seniors’ residence not far away which played a version of BINGO on Friday nights and the girls just had to help flip cards, distribute prizes and return residents to their rooms. It was so enjoyed that we made a decision to go there once a month as well, thus making two get-togethers a month for the girls. Moms were super impressed that the girls totally enjoyed going to the seniors’ residence and sacrificed many other plans in order to go of their own free will. You never know the power of volunteering. It really builds a girl up from the inside, knowing that great joy comes from acts of service. They really feel needed but also see so many in society who are lonely, needing help and so appreciative of young faces. Consider looking into volunteer opportunities as well, whether with seniors, or helping a young mom of many children to do yard work, house cleaning, child care, etc. We have so many people around us needing help and we can extend a helping hand that will bring smiles to many faces.
Now that you have a day, place, time and idea of what to organize, consider asking for a monthly fee and having the girls formally register to ensure their commitment. I have them supply their name, address, birthday (so we can celebrate the birthdays of each month), contact info, email addresses, etc. I ask for $5 each session, payable when they come, not necessarily in advance. The money is used to pay for any material costs. I keep all bills and use leftover money to offset admission costs if we go for a special outing. At the end of the year, the remaining money is donated to a local charity. One year I had many friends who graciously led the monthly activity. I bought a single rose out of the money provided and had a different club girl formally thank our guest for the activity presented. Not only did this greatly touch the guest, it gave the girls a chance to develop simple public speaking in a small supportive setting. Of course I started with the most extroverted girls to make it more attractive and less threatening.
Another detail that brought meaning to the group was to have a photograph taken of the group each month with the activity leader. This snapshot became a timeless reminder of the event, the people and what they experienced. It was then emailed to all the girls. Anyone in the group, or any of the moms can be responsible for this detail. Super easy now with Smart Phones. I regret not doing this for all past activities. Another gem if you have time is to make a one page blurb indicating what we spoke about, who attended, highlights of the evening and the photo of the girls to send to each of them by email, with the hopes the girl or mom would print it out for future reference. They all really appreciate this, especially the moms who then had a greater sense of what was going on. One club I know scrapbooks each event. This not only takes up some of the evening, but gets the girls creating the look, the theme, the memory. Priceless mementos!
Over the years I have come to see that the girls totally enjoy these girls clubs. Just knowing one more girl who is like-minded makes your daughter more steadfast in the values you are passing down to her. Having more than one girlfriend like herself, anchors her in a healthy attitude and greatly decreases the amount of rebellion you might otherwise get if she feels she is a lone ranger in a culture heading in opposite directions. Girls clubs go a long way to promote your daughter’s values, well-being, identity and self-assurance that she is amazing, worthwhile and loved by many outside her immediate family.
To optimize the impact the girls clubs can have, consider having a monthly topic that you address whether for a couple of minutes or longer. It need not be long, but it’s good to tackle. Girls typically run high on feelings but need to learn criteria, good judgement and critical thinking. As a result, choose a series of qualities you see worth addressing for her age and stage. Young girls might focus on order, patience, kindness, and responsibility; while teens can look at values of a true friend, importance of self-control, modesty, respect, etc. I enjoy having the mothers at the beginning of the year look at the chart of virtues provided by David Isaacs at http://10kids.com/ychildrenTHEVIRTUESLISTED.php
to mutually decide on what they want covered over the year, even if it’s a mix and match from the various columns. The topics can change each month or each season or even address one for the whole year, whatever you think is reasonable, appropriate and of interest. I have seen moms introduce topics to young girls through reading a fable, others through a short talk, while some give the girls the task to act out what a person with that virtue would look like, vs a person who lacks this quality. Regardless, try to have the girls gain an understanding of what the virtue is and how it can be lived simply at their age. In this way you build the girls’ criteria for what makes a mature person and not have them base their judgments on feelings but rather understand the meaning of good character development. An extremely simple book to use for girls clubs and for their parents on these topics is: The Family Virtues Guide by Linda Kavelin Popov. Very simple, straightforward and universal in approach. There are many resources out there. Find one that suits you.
I highly recommend one further goal for the club. If you find this too much in your first year, then add it either in the second half of that year, or in the second year. When the girls are sitting down to refresh themselves with a snack and drink, you and other moms should take them aside, one on one, to ask them to set a goal for the month based on the talk. Out of your session fees, buy the girls each a small inexpensive notebook, maybe from the dollar store. In it they can put the names and phone numbers of the girls in the club. They can write down what the talk was on and maybe two points regarding it. Then they can write down their goal for the month. Between the mom and the girl, some concrete step for improvement should be decided on, maybe to make their bed every morning without being asked or to help a younger sibling with a more smiling face. It is best that the mom not pair up with her own daughter and that the short talk between them be very positive and encouraging. Girls appreciate this mentorship and are motivated to make small strides in becoming a better person. Well worth introducing into your club.
Finally to have a wider impact if you are up for the challenge, consider providing the parents of these girls with any resources over the year that can compliment your talk. You can photocopy pages of a book, email websites or articles or any other avenues for supporting parents in their awesome role as primary educators. All parents are trying their hardest, overwhelmed with life and so grateful to have a helping hand. If this interests you as a possibility, go for it. You will help these parents and their whole family benefit from great information they might not otherwise have. Furthermore, they may also turn around and enrich you with added resources you too would benefit from. All in all, this added touch makes your club go further, deeper and wider than you imagined at the start.
So off you go. You have lots to think about. There are no rules. Be creative. Start in bite size pieces that suit you and your energy level. Don’t feel you have to do it all. It’s just good to know the full scope of possibilities so that you can play within them. Start simply with a small group to navigate your bearings. As you establish a rhythm, style and comfort level with it, invite more girls and add new twists. No two groups are ever the same. Don’t compare. Don’t compete. Just enjoy and let it naturally unfold at the pace that presents itself with the people who are helping you. No matter how simple or complicated you make it, know it will definitely have rewards. You will be grateful you began it, whether just for a season or for however long it lasted. You are investing in your child’s life in a huge way and they will be forever grateful!