How do you help a girl in the water? – Girls’ friendship issues

Several years ago my school were having numerous issues with girls’ friendships. Barely a day went by without at least one girl upset due to either falling out with their friends or another girl being unkind to them. One of our Heads of Year came to us with a programme she had found called ‘Girls on Board’. Girls on Board was created by Andy Hampton and has become the go to approach for developing girls’ ability to independently manage their own friendship issues.

I strongly advise any school wanting to use this programme to visit the Girls on Board website and contact Andy to undertake the training. This can either be undertaken in person or remotely. I completed the training remotely and worked through a number of lessons. The lessons were very informative and included instructional videos of the approach being used. At the end of each lesson I completed a reflection which was emailed to Andy and this led to a dialogue where further questions were posed and answered.

Girls on Board is an approach to help girls between the ages of 7 and 18 navigate the often troubled waters of friendship problems.

Girls on Board is an approach which helps girls, their parents and their teachers to understand the complexities and dynamics of girl friendships. The language, methods and ideas empower girls to solve their own friendship problems and recognises that they are usually the only ones who can. By empowering girls to find their own solutions, parents need worry less, schools can focus more on the curriculum and the girls learn more effectively – because they are happier.

Based on the book ‘Queen Bees and Wannabees‘ by Rosalind Wiseman, and the film “Mean Girls”, Girls on Board allows girls to explore the different types of behaviour exhibited by girls to develop an understanding that they all ultimately come down to one thing – insecurity. This is achieved through discussions and role-plays in small groups led by a facilitator. There is a full presentation provided along with a clear script.

For those of you confused by the title of this post – The Girls on Board concept is based around each group of friends being a raft. A ‘Girl in the Water’ is a girl without a friendship group.

A shorter Girls on Board session is run again, focussing on specific behaviours, when an issue arises. The key is identifying when an issue is a “girls on board issue” and then running a session.

IMPORTANT – Bullying is still bullying and needs to be addressed as you would do normally.

Over time the girls develop the ability to understand why a behaviour is being exhibited and then manage it themselves to come to a solution.

This video highlights this issue that occurs when girls try to explain to an adult what is happening with their friendships. Friendships are complicated!

I am not going to go into anymore detail here as I strongly believe you should explore the approach in detail through the official channels, but I really would advise all schools to consider having a group of staff trained in this approach.

In our school we ensure every Year 7 cohort joining the school has the full session delivered to them, and every other year group receives follow up sessions targeting specific behaviours when issues arise.

I can honestly say it has had a massive impact in our school and our pastoral leaders are no longer plagued by the day to day dramas of girls’ friendships.

Published by Matthew Domine

Secondary School Deputy Principal. Pastoral leader and music teacher.

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