Over the years, I have been privy to a lot of stories from the parents of kids in group. Sometimes the information comes by way of the group leaders and other times from the parents themselves. The other day, I was in the waiting room, in between meetings, and a mom was there waiting for her daughter, Blythe (not her real name) to come out of her final middle school girls group. I Introduced myself and her mom shared with me that their family had lived abroad, and while they were away Blythe had a rough go of it. She was bullied a lot in her elementary school and when the family returned to the States at the beginning of the 2013/14 school year, Blythe was terrified to begin middle school here. She was anticipating the worst from her peers. She was absolutely certain the kids (particularly the girls) in middle school would be even bigger and meaner than the kids in her elementary school abroad.
This negative self talk caused Blythe to be withdrawn, painfully shy, and self-conscious. When she first joined our middle school girls’ group, she was reluctant to participate and discouraged by her inability to make real connections with other girls. She barely even spoke the first couple of groups. Mom was worried about whether she would be able to make any real progress. As her daughter became more comfortable with the girls in the group, she began to trust them and herself. All week long, Blythe looked forward to seeing her friends from group. She could talk to them about her fears and practice with them ways to venture out socially with her peers in middle school.
This past spring Blythe did something remarkable. She successfully ran for a student council position at school. This formally shy, insecure girl had the courage to put herself out there in the public eye. Almost in disbelief herself, her Mom told me, “She had to personally ask each student for their support to collect enough signatures to allow her to run!”
I wanted to talk more with Blythe’s mom, but before I had the chance, the group ended, and all the girls returned to the waiting room. They were giggling and talking as they waited for their parents to finish feedback with the group leader. Looking at them objectively, the girls appeared so relaxed and comfortable with each other, I don’t think anyone would describe this group of girls as shy and insecure. For me, it was a moment of great satisfaction being able to offer this kind of support to these girls and their families.