Girl’s Group: Building Social-Emotional Skills for Healthy Relationships
Updated: Mar 8, 2021
In honor of Teen Dating Violence Month, one of Sojourner’s interns shares her experience leading youth prevention education programming. Hannah is studying to receive her Masters in Social Work, with a clinical concentration from Augsburg College and has also been assisting Sojourner’s legal advocates in court and in the community.
One of the crucial pieces of prevention work that Sojourner engages in is educating young people about healthy relationships. For the past two years, Sojourner has had a unique relationship with a middle school in the surrounding community. As a social work graduate intern at Sojourner, I have the privilege of joining a small group of eighth grade girls during their lunch break each Wednesday to discuss topics such as communication, gender identity, body image, bullying, teen dating violence, communication styles, and healthy relationships.
Group usually begins with a fun, engaging activity which helps to get everyone oriented and energized for discussion. During this time, students often share quick updates about what is happening in their lives and sometimes connect learning from previous weeks to their interpretations and retellings. The girls are eager to share their opinions about how culture, social media, and family expectations impact how they engage in both friendships and romantic, dating relationships. The wealth of personal experience in the room and the trust that has developed among the group members elevates and enhances the curriculum that we prepare at Sojourner. The girls often learn as much, and sometimes more, from hearing one another’s stories and reflecting together as they do from being presented with our activities and information.
The content we present to the girls can start out light-hearted, for example looking at images and searching for signs of Photoshop. As the facilitator, I enjoy the laughter and funny observations that the girls make about the activities. However, these conversations lead to deeper observations, such as how even images have impacts on how we understand ourselves and present ourselves within friendships and relationships. These girls have created a space where important social-emotional learning can take place and where they can begin to envision the healthy, respectful relationships and friendships they would like to have as they enter high school in a few months.
It has been thrilling to see the organic learning community these girls have developed over the past couple of months. It has been fun to experience the joy, sincerity, and collaboration the group cultivates as we tackle some important and serious topics.
Interested in interning at Sojourner? Apply here!