Thursday, March 1, 2012

Young Women New Beginnings

I thought I would post what we did for New Beginnings in case anyone wants any ideas since that season is coming up and I'm constantly searching blogs for something that hits me as the right idea for our group at a particular time.  When I got put in as the Young Women President I felt very strongly that I needed to focus on family relationships, parent-daughter relationships.  We really had the goal of drawing the children to their parents and the parents to us - since parental support for the YW program is minimal at best here. (We live in Miami and so the needs and types of families may be different from the norm).  Anyhow, we were trying to think of how to channel that idea into a nice and meaningful New Beginnings.

So we came up with the theme of "In the Beginning...."  leaving it somewhat open as to peak interest.

With sort of the subtitle that "Every good story started somewhere,"  meaning the story of them. So to prepare for the evening, we had secretly contacted all the parents and asked them for a few pictures of each of their girls - a few from each covering a span of years - baby, child... up to a current photo of each of them.  We had also asked each parent to write a letter to their daughters - starting with thoughts back from when they were born - their hopes and dreams for each of them, the excitement they had for them to be born - along with any other feelings they wanted to share and expressing their love for them - but to keep it strictly positive and uplifting (not I wish you would.... kind of stuff - we had quite a few having some big battles with their parents at the time).  We collected those all ahead of time without the girls knowing.

The night of the program we had everyone start by taking a questionnaire as they came in to be working on with their parents while everyone was arriving.

We did the usual stuff at the beginning of the program, and then when we got to our presentation, we started off with the slide show of the pictures of each of them from baby-teenager set to some great music.  It was a huge hit.  We had their photos go from their earliest to the most current and told them they could try to guess out loud who each girl was as her pictures came up.  We also threw pictures of the leaders in there from their childhood, which was fun for them to get to know us too since our presidency was all new. They all loved seeing themselves and seeing each other.  It was really fun.

When it was over, I started off my talk telling that our theme was "In the Beginning," and as they could see, we really wanted to go back to the beginning... to the beginning of them.  And even before that, (with the questionnaire) to their parents who raised them (couldn't say gave birth to them in our ward since some don't live with their mothers and fathers). Because every good story started somewhere. 

Then I talked about how much their parents must have loved them, sang them to sleep, rocked them, held them when they cried.  Then we told them we had something for each of them from their parents, and we gave them their letters that each of their parents had written for them.  We played some soft music while we gave them a few minutes to read through them.  

Then I talked a lot about parent-child relationships, how we all have the need for emotional connection but how sometimes it's hard to let parents in, and sometimes parents are too busy or preoccupied to let the children in.  It's hard for us to risk feelings and emotions if they're not well-received or if we're brushed off.  I talked about the challenges of teenage years and how it's easy to want to push parents away.  Then I told in detail about my relationship with my dad growing up.  I showed slides as I told about how I was the baby of the family, a real daddy's girl, but as a teenager I pushed away more, was a typical somewhat cranky and sullen teenager, and tried to be more distant the more he tried to be there. Even though he was always there and so supportive, I never appreciated it. When I graduated and went away to college, that strained relationship from the teen years finally started to lighten up - and then in an instant, he passed away.  I tried to really draw them into the story and kind of hit them with the shock that as an 18 year-old girl - not too far off for many of them, my dad was suddenly gone.  I wanted them to realize the time I'd wasted giving stink-face to my dad when we could have been laughing together and making happy memories.  I wanted to get across the point that we shouldn't waste the time we have with our parents and we should try to let them into our lives.  I also tried to get across to the parents that they should go easy on the kids as well, respect the things that are important to them rather than trivializing them, that sometimes they need to suspend judgement and accusations and just be a listening ear to protect their child from clamming up and not being willing to go to them the next time.  I also read a quote from Maya Angelou that says, "We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty," trying to remind parents of how tough the teenage years can be. 

After that we had some fun games just to get the parents and kids to have some fun together - we did something like the dating game where we had a few parent-child couples come up at a time and they all had to answer questions about each other like, "If your daughter were to steal one item from your closet what would it be?" and see if the parent and child put the same answers.  It was fun.  I think we had a few more fun games prepared, maybe even some minute-to-win-it type games?  But I think we felt time was up and we just did the one.  

At the end we had cupcakes for everyone and had made some little butterflies - relating to the earlier Maya Angelou quote, and also tying into a poem we stuck on each of them. (The butterflies were painted clothes pins pinned around the small snack size ziplock bags full of candy.)

We decorated everything in pink and black, had some cute black and white polka-dot paper we used to cover tables for our games or as a table runner down the food table over a pink tablecloth.  We used pink and black balloons across the ceiling as decorations and we had a little backdrop for them to take pictures together with their parents.

All in all we felt it was a really meaningful evening, a little change of pace from trying to get creative with re-introducing the values over and over again (although one of the early talks did hit those basics of the YW program more to introduce it to all the new girls), and a valuable way to try to just get positive feelings between the parents and their daughters and about the YW program in general and from the parents to us - also emphasizing that all those dreams and goals the parents had for their little girls are exactly what we have for them and what the YW program is here to help make a reality.

I'm sure others could make way more professional handouts, but I'd be happy to pass on files if anyone is interested.  But email, don't comment (comments don't come to my email) .

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