The teenage years were not a period of time that many of us look back at with fond memories. Between friendship and boy dramas, hormonal changes, demands of school and the pressure to know what the rest of your life will entail ... It's a time fraught with challenge.
Teenage girls today face an even greater challenge, as they have had the perils of social media thrown into their mix of worries. For parents of teenagers (or even parents of toddlers who are casting their minds ahead a decade), knowing how to prepare, help and support their daughters through these years can be a hugely overwhelming undertaking. Thankfully, forward-thinking community groups across the globe have recognised the need for support and are responding accordingly. One that has caught our attention is Byron Bay-based Future Dreamers, who host events, workshops and classes for girls aged 12 – 25, with the intention of instilling a strong sense of self-worth and self-love, while also focusing on philanthropy and community. We spoke to founders Catherine and Leah, who inspired us with tales of the moments they share with the girls who enter their door (of which there have been over 4740), how to encourage positivity in our own daughters, and how we can ensure our girls enter the world with a sense of purpose and the confidence to make their dreams a reality.
Tell us a little bit about Future Dreamers.
Future Dreamers is a space for girls aged 12 to 25, where we aim to inspire, uplift and celebrate being a young woman via lots of awesome events and workshops. Our HQ is our Clubhouse in the middle of Byron Bay, however we have started doing workshops in Melbourne, and Sydney + Brisbane are on the cards for this year. Watch this space!
Future Dreamers is all about making girls know their worth in the world - which is such an important mission in today’s environment. What sparked the idea for this concept?
As women, we know what it is like to grow up with all of the pressures and challenges girls face. We felt there was a need for girls to be able to connect with each other, and learn wisdom and skills from older women, which seemed lacking in our modern world, and especially in a regional town!
What do your workshops and events focus on?
Our workshops are diverse and focus on whatever the girls are interested in, or need in their lives at that time. We aim to make them all fun and super positive. They can be anything from meditation, nutrition/cooking, environmental sustainability, photography to self-defence and journal writing.
What do you find are some of the most common challenges facing the young women who come through your doors?
How do creative pursuits like art, dance and drama help girls in discovering their value?
How do you encourage connection between the young women participating in your workshops and events?
We find that as soon as the girls are engaged in an activity they let their guards down and the connections happen organically.
Mothers today are facing a raft of challenges with their teenagers - from navigating social media, to body image issues, and so on. What’s a good starting point to encourage open communication and great relationships with our girls - particularly when dealing with these types of issues?
Catherine: It is so hard for parents to know what is going on sometimes, as teenagers can be so tough to get to open up! At Future Dreamers, because we are older women, but not their Mothers, the girls are often happy to open up and tell us whats going on… I think this also works with a Mum’s friend or Aunty.. or another trusted female mentor. Social media seems to affect everything from body image, to bullying so I think parents need to be aware of how it all works so they can have open dialogue about it (without the giant eye-rolling from their kids – ha!). The more you know about what it is they are doing online the better! Leah: Being honest and open about your experiences when you were a Teen is really important too, we learn so much from story telling. I advise sharing stories of uncomfortable things like the first time you drank too much, how you dealt with friendships drifting apart, etc etc. this provides the teenager insights into handling things, without them directly having to talk about their situation until they feel ready to share it. It is our experience that the more you share of yourself honestly, the teen will do so back naturally. Just a reminder to mums though, it is important to be trustworthy. If your daughter tells you something in private (like, I have got my first period) respect them and their life, by not sharing their news with your girlfriends or husband until they give you permission to do so.
If girls are struggling with low self esteem or self worth, what’s a good way to start helping them to build it back up?
What are some of the most inspiring transformations you’ve seen in your work?
So many teenagers face the pressures of school and social environments. How can we help them to see a more well-rounded view of the world and their future?
We are so passionate about showing girls that there is a big wide world of possibility out there for them… which is why we have so many different facilitators from all over Australia come in and speak to the girls, so they can learn first hand what different, amazing paths your life can take. It is important to not only focus on school and grades, or the kids in your class, but to see the myriad of ways you can lead a happy life, doing what you love.