Lifestyle & Parenting

Girl Talk

April 26, 2019

In a woman’s life, no period of time is more vulnerable than the tween years. From rapidly changing bodies to wild emotions, the journey toward adulthood can be darn-right scary without proper care. Recognizing this, Madeleine Shaw founded G Day in 2014—a day-long event geared to girls aged 10 to 12 and their parents or other supportive adults. Taking place at Burnaby’s Nikkei Cultural Centre on April 29th, Madeleine shares more about the day, below. —Rachel Johnston

g day

Hi Madeleine! Tell us about G Day.

Hi! G Day is a unique day-long event that celebrates tween girls ages 10 to 12 as they take their first symbolic steps toward adulthood and includes parents or other supportive adults in girls’ lives. The day is designed to build girls’ self-esteem, as well as compassion and respect for other girls. Our program provides a fun, caring and supportive environment that helps increase understanding and acceptance of the significant changes girls experience during this important time in girls’ lives, for both girls and adults.

What inspired you to create the event?

As a young girl I was awed and excited by the idea of becoming an adult woman. Like Margaret in Judy Blume’s classic novel Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, I was obsessed with all the details, and on a semiconscious level I hoped that there would be some sort of fanfare or moment of initiation when I knew that I was "there". As such events were not part of my family’s cultural tradition, nothing happened to celebrate this major life transition. Fast-forward to 2013 when I was invited to speak at Pecha Kucha Night Vancouver, where I shared my dream of creating a space where girls could experience a modern, secular rite of passage. The first G Day took place in April 2014, and was attended by 250 girls. Since then, over 1,000 girls and 700 adults have attended 10 G Days in five Canadian cities.

g day

Why are the "tween" years such an important period of time for girls?

Few transitions in life present as many changes and challenges as early adolescence, when our time as children is ending and we begin to take our first steps toward becoming young adults. Starting at around age 10, girls experience incredible neurological, physical, cognitive and emotional changes. Entering their tween years, girls inhabit an increasingly sexualized, socially competitive landscape that can undermine their self-confidence and make them vulnerable to destructive influences and behaviours as they enter their teenage years. It’s an exciting time, and yet one that is also fraught with issues including mental health, confidence, bullying, body image and attrition from sports. Events like G Day create a profound emotional touchstone or imprint of feeling safe, included and valued in a community context. It’s our hope that this touchstone serves as an anchor for the rest of their lives.

What can those attending expect on April 29th, 2019?

In addition to inspiring speakers like Tamara Taggart, Michelle Wilson and Jocelyn MacDougall, the day is made up of interactive activities addressing topics including leadership, resilience, positive self-esteem and body image. We begin the day as the proverbial "village" that it takes to raise a child, seated in circles of 10 to 12, each led by a volunteer facilitator. There will be a stirring taiko drum performance, and we will enjoy facilitated intergenerational conversations to get to know our "neighbours". Following the morning, parents/adult supporters head to a separate space for their own program, where they hear from parenting experts, explore their own adolescent memories and prepare to symbolically receive the girls with a special ritual. The girls, meanwhile, have their own program where they hear story-based presentations about overcoming adversity and have time to connect with one another. Sessions include a multitude of diverse, fun, creative activities. The girls are encouraged to sing together, create art and share stories and experiences in both small as well as larger groups. G Day features dance, martial arts or other movement. The final part of the day is summarized by a beautiful ritual ceremony that expresses G Day’s real magic: the affirmation of the value of self, family and community.


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