Girls on the Run: Fostering Self-Esteem and Healthy Living in Pre-Teen Girls
I have been a runner since my high school cross-country days. While competitions and races are now few and far between for me, when a friend asked me to participate in a Girls On the Run 5K, I knew right away that the event was a perfect match for me.
Girls on the Run is an international, non-profit prevention program that uses running as a foundation to help young girls develop self-respect and healthy living skills. Designed for girls ages 8-13, the GOTR program is designed to educate and empower girls through its interactive curricula that simultaneously addresses physical, emotional, mental and social development. Unique lessons give girls skills to believe in themselves, make positive decisions, and avoid common adolescent pitfalls including substance abuse, promiscuity, eating disorders, depression, and criminal behavior.
Girls on the Run groups are active throughout the Fall and Spring. Typically, groups meet twice a week for either 10 or 12-week sessions. The lessons conclude with a 5K event, which is where I had the opportunity to come in. Adult volunteers are individually paired with girls who have completed the GOTR program. Though I would have welcomed the opportunity to meet with my partner ahead of time, for those looking for a meaningful, but short-term commitment, the event is designed so that adult-child pairings occur on Run day, just a short time before the 5K begins.
There is no pressure to run fast—this is an event, not a race. Adults are encouraged to follow the pace set by their young partners and to use the time before, during, and after the run to talk with the GOTR participant and encourage her throughout the run. I found my 35 minute jog with my 12-year old partner to be nothing short of joyful. She was a girl who had never run a 5K before and doubted she could complete the event as we stood together on the starting line. Her pride in telling me all about her experiences as a GOTR participant was abundant and her gratification in crossing the finish line successfully was a boon to her self-respect and dignity. What an honor for me to get to be a part of her moment.
Next Fall, I am hoping to be able to play a larger role in the GOTR group in my area, not just as a running partner, but as a group leader for girls. If you are interested in finding out how to get involved in a Girls On the Run group in your area, please check out this great organization’s website.
Signe Whitson is a licensed social worker with over 10 years of experience. She presents training workshops across the US for parents and professionals on topics related to child and adolescent mental and behavioral health. Signe is also a freelance writer for My Baby Clothes dot com. Dress your little ones in the most fashion forward baby clothes, tutus and baby headbands.
- A Powerful Lesson for Teen Girls
- Our Mean Girls Experience
- Panelist Discussion: Bullying Among Girls
- How Do We Handle Bullying Among Girls?
- Learning Differences Between Boys and Girls