Mother Daughter Group Revisited

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Last fall I wrote these two posts about our Mother Daughter group (here and here).  After some honest discussion with the other moms, I decided to stop writing about our specific group. As wonderful as it is, we wanted to keep it private and safe for the girls to grow and share openly.  The thought was that if they  knew I was blogging about it, even though I keep it strictly anonymous, there may be some hesitation about sharing.  I wholeheartedly agreed, so have stopped writing about the particulars of our monthly group meetings.

Throughout the year,  we have evolved into a cohesive and connected group. We met monthly, rotating between peoples’ homes although a few times we met in other venues such as Rebounders, a restaurant or a sports pavilion.  The host mom and daughter would plan a craft or a game as well as a potluck meal and lead discussion topics that the group had suggested the previous month.  Discussions have included gossip, bullying, boy-girl relationships and appropriate clothing choices.  The girls were initially very shy, but have become so comfortable that they are leading discussions and opening up with much ease.

We met again last week culminating our first year together.  The weather was beautiful, we met at a neighborhood pool and the day was just perfect.  The girls initially went in the pool while the moms chatted around a table.  When they got hungry, the girls gravitated towards the snacks at the table adjacent to the moms.  Before we realized it, the girls had pulled up chairs and we were all gathered around the table sharing stories of  summer trips and camp.

Later that evening one of the moms sent a group email reflecting on how nice the day had been and how she noticed that the girls had pulled their chairs up to our table, something that would not have happened even a few months ago.  We were operating as a unified group; moms and daughters as a unit.  One mom was helping my  daughter with make-up advice, something that is fairly foreign to me while another girl shared how she allocated her allowance for her back-to-school purchases.  It was so special to witness how close the girls and moms have become  over the last twelve months.

I have been thinking about offering a group of this nature for moms and daughters through my practice.  Many moms in my community have commented on  how wonderful our group is and how helpful it would be for them and their daughters.  This group would be structured a bit differently as I would be the facilitator and not a mom.  It would be in my office and have some differences to the one that I have been writing about;  I see a great deal of potential having it in such a setting with the ability to grow very strong bonds and do meaningful work as has been done in our group in a less formal setting.

I am asking  you readers for your thoughts.  Would this be something that you and your daughter might be interested in? Would you be willing to commit to a monthly and/or twice a  month meeting which would include some, yet to be decided, fee? Would you be open to this fabulous experience for not only your daughters, but for you as well (the relationships that we have formed as moms have become as important to me as  have the relationships between the girls)?

Please do chime in as it will help me to decide if the interest is out there for this type of group.  I have invested time and energy into other groups that have not taken flight, so trust that your feedback is very important.  Thanks for your thoughts.

Laurie

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Mother Daughter Group #2

We had our second Mother Daughter Group last night and it was really fantastic.  I was a bit worried that Hurricane Sandy was going to pre-empt our event, but I was pleasantly surprised that not only did Sandy  not interfere with our plans, but she also cancelled school for today so our evening was more relaxed and no one had to rush home to make lunches, do homework and get the girls to  bed.  (Then again, I do believe that I am probably the one that gets most anxious about Sunday  night events to which my friends will attest, but that is another post altogether).

Last night’s event took place at my house.  We had planned a Halloween gathering with costumes, crafts and spooky food.

The girls and  moms arrived in costumes with a great deal energy, carrying bags and platters and treats.  We began the evening in the basement with a craft I had found online from Martha Stewart.  I first had to explain to the girls who Martha is, and then proceeded to inform them that I am in no way, shape or form anywhere  similar to the insanely compulsive Queen of the Craft (although, I may beg to differ about the creator of the sweets pictured above).

Other than the glitter all over my basement for the next 6 years, and the gold speckled toilet that the girls decided to adorn while washing their hands, the sparkle pumpkins were a huge success.

Our next move was dinner.  I had grown tired of cardboard box pizza, so I whipped up some pasta and garlic bread while others contributed salad and sides.  The girls laughed and chatted away in the kitchen while the moms gathered in my dining room. At one point, the moms were laughing so hard that we were blatantly hushed by the girls.  I gather we are bonding quite well, but are not supposed to out-fun our 6th grade daughters.

After dinner we retreated back into the basement and gathered for some discussion.  Our jumping off point was to explain to the girls that traditional religious Jewish people don’t celebrate Halloween  (read here  for more information about the religious basis for depriving sheltering some religious Jewish kids from abundant Reeses and Three Musketeer Bars). We reminded the girls that had gone to Jewish pre-schools that they weren’t allowed to dress up for Halloween in pre-school, nor was there any mention of Halloween in the pre-school craft curriculum.

We then bridged the discussion to how the girls feel in December being the only (which they all seem to be) Jewish student in their secular school classes.  There was a lively discussion about what it is like to be unique or different amongst your classmates.  It was wonderful to see the girls sharing and participating where the month before their discussion had been a bit more guarded.  They all seemed engaged and interested in sharing and hearing what others had to say.

Dessert was next and then we finished up with one more craft.  The girls had all brought a black and white photo of themselves and proceeded to create these fun projects:

As they left and I did a bit of clean up (the glitter-mess still awaits me in the basement), I felt so  proud of the whole evening.  Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and have a nice time.  As the girls gathered up their costume remains and crafts, I heard them talking about what our plans will be for next month.  The sign of success!


Mother Daughter Group

Sometime last February, I learned of increased drama in my daughter’s 5th grade class. Girls were being left out, feelings were being hurt and self-confidence was plummeting. Although expected  in the pre-teen and teen world, it is still painful to witness. Around that time, a mom from the class posted a picture of her  daughter on Facebook. The comment accompanying the photo stated that her very feminine daughter was  hesitant to wear the skirt from the photo to school because she feared that her peers would make fun of her. I showed my daughter the picture and asked her what she thought. She said that the skirt was “really pretty” and she would “never” make fun of this classmate for wearing the skirt to school. I proceeded to share this with the mom and what ensued, with another mom pitching in, was how our daughters’ are not feeling comfortable or confident in their own skin.

About the same time I had joined the DCTherapistmoms group. I was privy to a wealth of information from the members about their practices, therapeutic interventions and resources around the DC area. I posted on the listserve requesting ideas for boosting girls’ self-esteem; I was particularly asking for books, but open to anything.

I received lovely feedback from Karen Schachter. Karen is therapist who specializes in working with girls, healthy body image and food issues, and has been a great resource for me.  We spoke one afternoon and I voraciously took notes on all that she had to offer. Karen shared ways that she works with this population, workshops she had led and ways to approach both my daughter, her peers and their parents. (A disclosure: most of my clinical work is with older adolescents and not this age group, but truth be told, no matter how old the child is, when it  lives in MY house, I am a floundering mom and always seek advice and support from those that are NOT me). Speaking to Karen was incredibly helpful and I am so grateful for her time and expertise. Karen also planted a seed in my head about a group for mothers and their daughters.

A month or so later, I began googling “Mother Daughter Groups”. I found The Mother Daughter Project , became engrossed in the website and within minutes had ordered the book. Their story reads:

In 1997, a group of mothers of young girls… gathered to address the challenges of mothering adolescent daughters in today’s world. … We were determined to come up with a plan that would enable our girls to thrive through adolescence, that would help us to remain close and connected with them, and that would support us as mothers and as women. The Mother Daughter Project Website

The book is based on these women’s experiences of their group with their daughters.  It  discusses adolescent development, aspects of their specific group and provides a guide to starting a group of your own.

I approached the mom’s at our synagogue whose daughters are part of my daughter’s Hebrew School class and piqued their interest about forming a Mother Daughter Group. These girls do not attend secular school together, they are not in each other’s cliques nor are they caught up in the drama of the every day minutiae at school. The model suggested getting away from the school friends and I found this to be a fitting population from which to form our group. These girls only see one another twice a week for a few hours. I also thought that we could incorporate Judaism into the group, which is absent for these girls in their public school environments.

Twice during the summer the interested moms gathered over coffee to plan our group. I only knew a few of them prior to our first meeting, but already am building bonds and nurturing friendships with these women. We made introductions, talked about our daughters and our goals for the group. We also planned out several of the first few monthly meetings.

Last Sunday night we had our first meeting. Eight moms and their daughters met at one person’s home. We gathered in their beautiful living room with just the right lighting and ambience for this special group of women and daughters to begin their journey. The sixteen of us sat in a circle, some on cushy sofas, some on the floor, two girls huddled together on an ottoman and the group came alive.

We began by playing a name game.  A few moms then presented our vision of the group to the girls. We talked about rules, respect and confidentiality. We asked the girls if they had suggestions and they eagerly offered up ideas from having participated in Girls Scouts, Girls on the Run or at camps. We suggested they think about a name for their group while we enjoyed a dinner of pizza and potluck appetizers. The girls were seated at a table in a room separate from the moms. We heard  laughter and chatter coming from the other room; fun and connection  was in the works.

Next on the agenda was for the girls to make cupcakes. The controlling person that I am wanted to assist the process. My new mom friends gently pulled me  out of the kitchen  to allow the  girls to work it out themselves. And, they did. They made great cupcakes and had some time to let loose in the basement. When it was time to go, they had decided on a name for their group: The Girly Gangsters and posed for a group picture true to their name.

Introducing The Girly Gangsters