Guiding is a place to belong
'Girlguiding is a place where girls feel they belong and are accepted, just as they do in their kinship family'
Both Girlguiding and Grandparents Plus are supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery. Grandparents Plus is the only national charity dedicated to supporting kinship carers - grandparents and other relatives raising children who aren’t able to live with their parents.
Karen Houghton, kinship carer
Karen is a kinship carer, caring for her granddaughter, who is a Rainbow. She spoke to some girls in kinship care about what guiding means to them.
My kinship family
‘We are a kinship family - which is when a child grows up with family or friends because their Mum or Dad are unable to look after them. Our Rainbow has a Grandma and Grandad who are her parents and an Auntie who is just like a big sister. It’s different, but we are still a family.
Writing this blog was a great opportunity for me to gain some insight from guiding kinship families who kindly completed a questionnaire about their experiences. Like our family, they focus on love, care, fun and activities and it was great to hear how these positives extended into their guiding experiences.
Girlguiding is a place of belonging
It concerned me to hear that outside of Girlguiding, some girls had experienced unkindness, teasing and cruel comments because they are part of a kinship family. However, at Rainbows, Brownies and Guides they find a place where they belong. As one girl said - “I’m just a Guide like everyone else”.
“Who are my family Grandma?” This is a question my granddaughter asks me. In kinship families, relationships can become lost, and I hoped that Rainbows would help us extend our child’s sense of belonging. It’s also a good place for her to make friends. My granddaughter was so excited when she was able to have a sleepover with her Rainbow group and it was a great opportunity for her to build her friendships further.
It was reassuring to hear that all girls on their guiding journey continued to feel safe and accepted and that their friendships in guiding extended to activities outside of the group.
This reinforces the importance of the acceptance and belonging that Girlguiding brings. Lots of comments in the questionnaire expressed the desire to fit in and be like everyone else and that this was what they experienced in Girlguiding.
“I love guides. I love going on camps. My leader is fantastic.”
Being different can be hard but kindness helps
Being different can be tough, especially if you’re teased or bullied because of it. My Rainbow sometimes doesn’t want to talk about being part of a kinship family but other times she talks freely about it. We have lots of happy times together as a family, but she misses her mum and dad very much.
Building confidence to deal with questions within friendship groups is a valuable tool, particularly in the world outside of Girlguiding and, for older girls, on social media. One of the girls who answered the questionnaire suggested that Brownies in kinship care may not be ready to talk directly about kinship care but that asking questions about their family was OK - “My friends are kind and only ask questions”.
Being kind can make all the difference, and sometimes that means understanding that some girls might not want to talk about their family much. But, maybe like my Rainbow, sometimes they will want to talk about their family especially if they trust you and know you are a good friend.
Looking to the future
Girlguiding is the ideal place to learn about different kinds of families because girls feel safe there. It is a sensitive area but some activities suggested by girls to help raise awareness of kinship care included:
- Have a session explaining to everyone what kinship care is
- Have a day celebrating kinship care
Every family has its difference and Girlguiding is the ideal environment to reinforce how these make us unique but equal to everyone else. It is a place where girls feel they belong and are accepted, just as they do in their kinship family.