A message from Michelle Jenks, Founder & Executive Director:
January is often filled with conversations about resolutions. We even take some time to talk about what the new year holds for our junior high participants. They talk about the kind of things they want to accomplish in the next twelve months. They often talk about places they want to visit, habits they want to stop or start, things they want to experience, changes they’d like to make with their appearance. It’s all very normal and they enjoy sharing hope.
While this sounds like a fairly typical conversation to have at the first of the year, our reason for having it is not so typical. Let me explain. Research shows that middle schoolers have low self-esteem. In fact, it has gone from the highest right before puberty and has plummeted to its lowest when puberty hit. Children’s sense of self is directly tied to their parents/caregivers, and as they move into a different stage of development with puberty, they begin the process of differentiation. Since their needs have exclusively been provided for from others, they continue to seek out others as a way to meet their needs of identity and worth while simultaneously pulling away from their parents. While this is developmentally appropriate, it puts them in a unique position of vulnerability.
Our goal is to give the girls opportunity after opportunity to find their identity and sense of worth from within. The more they talk about what they like, dislike, desire and strive for, the stronger their sense of self becomes. The stronger their awareness of self becomes and their self-esteem grows, the less likely these girls will be victim to mistreatment.
We encourage you to have these conversations with the junior high girls in your life. Ask them what they want to spend time doing this year, where they’d like to visit, what they’d like to learn to do, and what they like about themselves. Help them discover who they are. The conversations and the outcomes will be worth the time.