I did a workshop for 6th and 7th grade girls at an elementary school here in Los Angeles, CA. Prior to the workshop the principle and counselor met with the girls in each grade and asked them what they worried about so that I would know what to address in my workshop.
I was surprised and enlightened by the answers and wanted to share them with my readers:
What 6th Grade Girls Worry About:
They felt that they give and receive a lot of attitude towards each other. They are afraid of being mean, but also afraid of not being mean.
2) Friendship Dilemma’s
During the workshop I talked about making a friendship pact with your best friend to always stick up for one another. One girl raised her hand and said, “how do I do that when my best friend is my best friend one day and my enemy the next?” They specifically worried about:
-Talking behind people’s backs
-Making fun of other people
-Being forced to choose sides
-Causing drama for no real reason
3) How to be a good person
They did not use these words, but many of the concerns fell into the general ‘being a good human cateogry’ I was surprised and delighted to hear that they worry about these issues and want help with them:
-Criticism towards people who are different
-Communication and trust
-Recognition of past hurtful behavior
-Not listening to other’s opinions
-Ability to express one’s feelings
They wanted to know how to talk to them and wanted to talk about them.
5) How you look and how you dress
They wanted to know both the good AND the bad of Facebook. Luckily, they also recognized that things could be interpreted differently on Facebook than in real life and wanted to know what that misinterpretation was.
What 7th Grade Girls Worry About:
3) How to deal with difficult and annoying people
They mentioned dealing with attitudes and dirty looks as a daily problem for them.
4) Friendship pressures
All kinds of friendship pressures were mentioned. They got incredibly specific about what plagues them on a daily basis. As parents, adults and educators I find this extremely helpful. You could have a workshop on each and every one of these issues, if only we knew…
-Drama – fighting over attention
-Cliques – how to deal with them
-Rumors being spread/How to help stop them
-Secrets and Trust
-Getting past barriers to get to know people
-Peer pressure/Mature friends doing bad things
-How to make friends/start conversations
-Gossiping behind people’s backs
-How to deal with people who think they are better than you
-Friends who only talk and not listen
-Money and social status
Parents seemed to be much more on the minds of 7th grade girls. I think as they get older and want more freedom, parents suddenly become relevant. They wanted to know about:
-Dealing with parents about things that seem unfair
-Parents and your friends they don’t like
-Responsibility vs. Freedom
-Separating from parents and becoming independent
-How to talk to your parents about ______ without them thinking that you are doing _____ (sex, drugs, drinking)
They wanted to do better in school and saw that good grades is much more important now that high school is approaching.
-How to stop procrastination
-Communicating effectively with teachers
Weight and how you look became much more of an issue as girls now look different than they did in 6th grade.
-How you look/How much money you spend on clothes/Weight
8. Life balance
They listed feeling unsupported as a concern and also wanted to know how to balance family, friends and homework now that they are feeling the crunch.
Differences and Shifts Between 6th and 7th Grade Girls:
There were some differences between the two workshops and between the two sets of responses. 7th grade girls were a bit meaner than the girls in the 6th grade workshop, at least they said things that were very hurtful to each other quite openly.
6th graders still seem to be grappling with fixing it and making everyone ‘nice,’ whereas 7th graders just wanted to be done dealing with those annoying people. 7th graders were also much more focused on how they looked, what they wore and what boys thought of this. I believe a lot of this is due to the fact that girls begin to develop much more quickly in 7th grade than 6th.
The good news is the older girls wanted help with school. They wanted to learn how to balance real life and do better in school, whereas 6th graders had no interest in this.
Overall, I was impressed by how mature these girls were, how willing they were to talk about their issues and how easily they could identify and articulate what they worry about. On the other hand, I was astounded at the maturity level of the issues they were dealing with and saw in each of them such burden. I hope that these anecdotes from the girls were as enlightening for you as they were for me. Even if we can tackle one of two of these issues with our own daughters/students/clients we would make a lot of progress in lessening that burden.