Girl Scout Leader Burnout

I’ll confess. I am going through a difficult season as a Girl Scout leader.  I’m battling pain from an injury, uninterested parents and girls who are becoming their own persons – each with their own very strong ideas. That, combined with cookie season, and I’ve welcomed the fact that school sports have wiped out three meetings, and could possibly take down a fourth.

I’ve watched special “girl-led” Bronze meetings devolve into name calling of “bossiness,” which has apparently bled over into school life for the girl on the other side. A team, they are not, and while we’re trying to teach them to learn to work together despite their personal differences, it’s been tough going. And I’m counting the days until our Bronze project is complete.

I’ve never felt this tired as a leader before.  I suppose you could call it burnout.

But I don’t want to walk away.

Scout leader tips and survival strategies

The reality is, I love these girls. They are my kids. I’ve seen them grow, I’ve seen them struggle. I know that each one of them is growing in their own way due to their Girl Scout experience. And I love to see their successes, both in scouting and away.

I love the idea of Girl Scouting. I love the outdoors. I love adventures. I love learning that doesn’t involve looking something up on the Internet or reading from a book.

I love the idea of teaching. Even when I don’t have all the answers, I love the idea of learning together.

But right now, I don’t like the idea of fundraising. Or forcing badge work into meetings. Or begging parents for money for an outing or a second adult so we can go on that outing.

So, rather than spiral into burnout or throw my hands up and declare we’re going Juliette, I’m taking this opportunity of lost meetings to recharge. We put a pause on Bronze Award work until our project launches at school next month. We’re having “come if you can” type outings that don’t require advance registration, like an outing to the university’s eco lab for a night hike, or meeting another troop to do Ham radio for Thinking Day.

When (if) we resume meetings in April (because another school sport may come into conflict), we’re going to be flexible. We’ll plan for Junior Jam. Do some cleaning out of my tubs and do random projects. And just enjoy each other’s company for our last few months of Juniors. I don’t want my girls’ struggle with interpersonal relationships, which can be tested with long projects, to be their memories of their scout experience. I want them to work hard, yes, but play hard too and enjoy the ride.

I suspect the middle school years will bring additional challenges, as the girls continue to grow in their individual interests and activities. For them, flexibility will be the way to go.

And for me, staying flexible and rethinking what once worked is a must as well. I don’t want to be a grouchy, burned out volunteer. I want to relive that joy I had during all my days at summer camp as a scout and kindle that fire within my troop.  And within myself.

How do you handle burnout as a troop leader or volunteer? Share your ideas below!


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