They call it relational aggression. You probably call it bullying. Or peer intimidation. Or mean girl stuff. The name doesn’t really matter. Every mother worries about it and how it affects her child. The Junior League of Ann Arbor did something about it.

JLAA funded a three-year grant to the University of Michigan’s University Center for the Child and Family to develop a program designed to decrease the incidence of relational aggression by increasing community awareness of the problem and developing key resources for use by community groups in the Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County area.

The result was a program that is called Strong Moms, Strong Girls, and it provides girls in grades 4 – 7 with the tools needed to challenge relational aggression. By teaching girls how to navigate conflict constructively, SMSG aims to help participants form strong, healthy friendships and support systems during these often difficult years. Through workshops, community outreach, consultation and other resources, SMSG also aims to support mothers/caregivers, educators and mentors by offering unique resources to help girls in the late elementary and middle school years. The University of Michigan points out that relational aggression actually peaks in late elementary and middle school years and is especially prevalent among females.

Trained JLAA volunteers implement the program with community groups, particularly schools, that request help with workshops for mothers and daughters, parents and educators, mentors and, of course, the girls themselves.

The Junior League of the Lehigh Valley heard about SMSG and has adopted it and is currently in the third year of expanding promotion and awareness for the program in the greater Lehigh Valley area. Bi-annual Figuring Out Friendships workshops, a collaboration of Lehigh University and The Junior League of the Lehigh Valley, strives to empower girls and their mothers in engaging in conversation about relational aggression, positive self-image, and how to navigate the world of female friendships. Free Community Presentations about RA (Relational Aggression) are offered at public locations such as schools and The Red Cross.

The JLLV has received positive feedback from mothers, daughters, educators, and others who have attended the different facets of the program. Giving girls the tools they need to empower them to navigate through social interactions will in turn make them stronger, more empathetic, and positive leaders in their communities.