Building strength and resilience in teen girls.
An interview with Celia Mulder - Primary School Teacher and Founder of Fit Groms.
Building strength and resilience in teen girls.
An interview with Celia Mulder - Primary School Teacher and Founder of Fit Groms.
In this episode, Angela interviews a primary school teacher, sports coordinator, and founder of Fit Groms, Celia Mulder. From seeing the challenges teen girls are having with looking after their physical, emotional and social wellbeing Miss Celia shares the important role exercise has in creating positive lifelong habits for girls. Through access to role models outside of the home, to developing a positive self-image and the vital role of a supportive peer group, this is an episode not to be missed. If you have teen girls in your life and are looking for practical ways to support them in this transition period in their lives, then this is the interview for you.
girls young girls life kids sport important beautiful teacher fit friendship school people running support parents adults
Angela: Welcome to A Kid's Life Podcast. I'm Angela Lockwood. And for the last 20 years, I have been working in schools, supporting teachers to build inclusive classrooms. Through A Kid's Life Podcast, my goal is to help us, adults, better understand the complexities of life as a kid. My guests and I share stories, reflections, and simple strategies to support kids of all needs as they walk through life. So whether you're looking for inspiration, direction, guidance, tips, or just a laugh, A Kid's Life podcast is the place for you. Enjoy.
Angela: Welcome to A Kid's Life Podcast, I'm Angela Lockwood. And this month, if you've been following my work, you would have noticed that I'm talking a lot around inclusive sports and including children in being physically active. Being physically active is a really positive health measure and also for adults to be able to support kids to be active and not to see barriers through accessing sport and their health and wellbeing so it was absolutely perfect for me to invite Celia Mulder on our episode today because she is you wouldn't believe it. She's a primary school teacher, perfect tick. You know, I love my teachers. She's also very heavily involved in the PE aspect and sports aspect of the work she does in schools. But she's also the founder, which I know she's extremely uncomfortable with me calling her the founder of Fit Groms, which is a program supporting teens and young girls to really reconnect with their health and wellbeing and start some really good positive health habits. So, she's just perfect to be on A Kid's Life Podcast. Welcome, Celia.
Celia: Hi, Angela.
Angela: Hi. Do you know what I love? I'm calling you Celia. But I can see on our zoom recording right now, which is where we're recording this so that I can see you, it says Miss Mulder.
Celia: Oh, yeah, I saw that before and I should have changed that.
Angela: I love it. I feel like I should call you Miss Mulder.
Celia: It's hard for the girls as well. I've previously taught who come to Fit Groms and like you can call me Celia. And they're like, it's just too hard. We need to call you Miss Mulder. So that's okay.
Angela: And I can remember growing up as a kid to my parents, you had to call your friend's parents, Mr. or Mrs. And I still now you know, in my 40s I still call them Mr. or Mrs. and they go, Angela, it's totally fine for you to call me, you know, so and so it's totally fine. You're an adult now. And I'm like, no, once it's in there, it stays.
Celia: That's exactly right. It sticks, doesn't it?
Angela: Now, okay, so I feel like I've got some really, you're just this beautiful, calm, gorgeous, fit, healthy person. And I feel like I want to be a little bit selfish in our conversation today to get some tips off you too. But let's start at the work that you do with young women first. So young girls, just tell us around what led you to really focusing your attention and your care on girls.
Celia: I suppose I've you know, I've had a background in teaching now for 13 years, which is pretty amazing. And heavily involved in sport in schools and also in my own life. And a while ago, I started a running club at school and was just amazed at how many kids rocked up before school to run literally laps around an oval. Obviously, I put some tunes on and try to make it fun and collect pop sticks along the way. And at one point, I had around 80 kids. And I was like, wow, this is incredible. Obviously, there's a need for kids within fitness and movement. And I also knew that it's important to have that mindfulness along the way too. So that had stuck with me for a fair while and I just sort of sat on it. And then once COVID hits, I started thinking about an idea of running Fit Groms, and just a space where kids could come together. But then I thought a little bit deeper and was like, I'm sure there's teenagers out there who would really value and really benefit in a space that provided them with connection after COVID after so many zoom meetings, obviously within high school, I know what it was like being a teacher seeing kids on a screen and not seeing them in person. And yeah, that's sort of where it grew from that COVID and then creating a space for girls to connect and there was sort of nothing really like that in the community. And that's where it began.
Angela: So, you really stumped me at first of all turning up early to school to run around an oval. I couldn't think of anything worse. Well, I guess first of all, what made you want to come out of hours and do that for the kids because that's something that is really rare. First of all, obviously it's very, you know, interesting for the kids to want to do that. But why did you think that that was important?
Celia: From being a sports coordinator at school and also teaching PE at other schools, the connection that I made with the kids from sport was incredible. It's like another level. Yes, I'm a classroom teacher. And that is a beautiful thing. That way that you connect with the whole school community, not only parents, and friends of the community, but the kids is just incredible. And you really get to know them, their passions, what they love. And I also got to know all of the kids at school, not just my class, and yeah, I just saw they loved to train to get ready for cross country, for athletics. And yeah, they would be there before me at school, I was always running in, you know, 10 to 8, and that will be there waiting for me in the fitness gear and, and also, it was like, during summer two, so we were like out there and it was hot and sweaty, and they're just running for half an hour. Like it's, it was pretty amazing.
Angela: And did you find that the kids would turn up? Were they always the kids who you know, the athletic kids or the kids who you'd see at every bit of sport? Or were they a whole range of kids?
Celia: Whole range? Definitely, obviously, those kids that love sport, and they thrive on that aspect and avenue, which I love to push with children and also teenagers. Because you can learn so much through sport. It was parents whose kids were nervous and anxious about carnivals, or running and wanted to get their kid to be more confident. So, they came along. Yeah, all different types of kids came..
Angela: Yeah, actually when you really think about it. I've never really, you know, obviously, the work that I do in schools around inclusion, you know, I see kids all the time who really struggle with sports, and I've just recently put some articles and wrote some articles up to help teachers be able to make their sports lessons more inclusive. But I guess I never really thought that for those sports, you know, they’re sports days, they can be so stressful. You know, they can really, you know, for me, I was an athlete as a kid. So, oh my gosh, that was like my day, you know, my swimming day, the swimming carnival was the day I got to shine or the athletics carnival meant that I could get in and get involved. But for many kids, it really does cause a lot of anxiety, doesn't it?
Celia: Yeah, it does. And you have to also, I think, I say to parents whose kids are a bit nervous, and that we really want them to go, I really want them to have a go and to get in there. And, and that's awesome. However, you have to really value that child and who they are too, because not everyone's a go-getter. And not everyone's going to be, you know, at the starting line ready to go with that grunt and determination. We've got those beautiful people in our lives that are quiet, you know, inquisitive, you know. So, it's really important that we value those kids for who they are, but also support them. And just to say it's okay, or run with them, or get the older kids to be that peer support. And then they know that they're confident, but it's okay. I think it's really important. I always say to the parents, it's okay to be like that, though. We're not all the same.
Angela: What are your thoughts around allowing children that little bit step further not to participate? They're just what are your thoughts around that? Because I know, I have my thoughts. I'd just be interested from a teacher's perspective, but you know, do you think that we should encourage kids to participate, even if they're reluctant to?
Celia: Definitely you have to, because life's not easy. And life is all about ups and downs. And if we just say to them, and not push the whole life, we're not going to give them the best opportunity to be the best people of who they are. But we also have to value that. Yeah, they’re maybe not ready just yet. Even just rocking up and sitting in the grandstand. Amazing, perfect cheering your team on. I think that's important. If you don't, you know, yes, you might not want to compete at the swimming carnival, or the athletics. But let's be there for the team, because that's your group, and let's be a supportive person. And then they can progress, I suppose. Let's go on a little fun activity. And I think that's important on sports days, as well to have those fun activities that are so competitive for those kids.
Angela: Yeah, what an important insight. Because I know I say a little bit more, it's a lot more than I've been in schools for 20 years. But what I'm noticing a lot more now is that kids are opting out. And it's actually becoming a little bit okay for them to opt out. And it's not just necessarily the teachers, it's parents just not bringing them in the first place. And, for me, that's really concerning, because I think it for all those reasons that you just said, it's supporting the team, it's being a team member, it's going it's okay, if you don't want to be, you know, in the arena, but if, you know, there's people there that you can actually really offer some motivation too they might need your support. Yeah, I'm seeing a really big change actually. And it's, it is a little bit worrying sometimes that, you know, giving kids a little bit of an out sometimes makes the challenges easier for them to be able to step out of as well.
Celia: And that's right and then you never know you know, they got us you know, start saying things like, oh, you know, I don't want to do writing because I don't like writing or I don't want to do reading because I don't like reading, you always have to give that a little bit of a push and say, you know, let's give it a go. And, you know, I'm here for support. But you know, let's be there and be involved.
Angela: I love that. Let's be there. Let's be involved. And if that's not a quotable, quote. Tell me about the work that you're doing with the girls. So, you know, that was something that really struck me with you. Yeah, that sense of community of bringing young girls together, you know, I have a young girl myself. And I see a lot now that there's this real desire for girls to either be all in or not in at all. And really missing out on like I said, I was really involved in sport. And it wasn't just the physical development side of things that I loved. But I've made some lifelong friends through sport and really good connections. And, you know, people actually, it's really funny. One of the schools, a little side tangent here, that I work in, I was in the staff room, walked in, and I looked at a lady, and I was like, I know that face. And I was thinking, oh, this is a bit awkward. Don't have I met them recently haven’t I and said, I noticed she had a hockey shirt on. And I thought, oh, she plays hockey, I played hockey, you know, for 20 years. And I'm thinking, how do I know her? Long story short, we found out we both played in the under 16 in New South Wales State team together, she was down at Goulburn. And you know, I was up in Newcastle in New South Wales. And here we are all these years down the track. And we've struck up a friendship again. And, you know, it was a beautiful thing. And I look at that, and I think sport is more it can be so much more around just the physical development. Are you finding that with the girls that you're bringing together through Fit Groms that it's actually the social connection part that's really a benefit for them?
Celia: Yeah, it's a huge part. And I say to the girls, when we meet up, you know, a big part of Fit Groms is movement, but also mindfulness. But it's when we sit down together in a big circle, and we connect, and I can already see, you know, I think fifth week in the girls connecting more, and also, they're just so open and willing to share their experiences, because I suppose I've created and they've created not just me that space of trust. And that's so important for young girls to feel safe and supported. And also, just to be heard too, even if we don't know all the answers, and we don't, you know, know all the answers of being an adult and giving the right advice to the girls that it's really important for them to just be heard and, and to sort of help them along the right way and make the right decisions.
Angela: So, what about you mentioned mindfulness as a part? Now I know for me growing up, no way would all have I ever even thought of mindfulness. You know, I never would have even thought that that was important. But young girls are aware of this now. And why do you think that there's been this change for girls and being aware of the importance of mindfulness and how to do it?
Celia: I definitely think it's like a word that's definitely pushed out within the media and society a lot more now. So you know, we talk about that at school for the children. And there's lots of different ways that I suppose kids meditate or do mindfulness at schools and the different programs. And I suppose, as a teacher, I've seen the benefits too and also myself have seen the benefits of being mindful and practicing meditation. So yeah, I think that's a really great opportunity to teach girls to sort of step inwards. And yesterday, I actually said to the girls, we're up at Cabarita Headland. And it's a beautiful, obviously, space and a beautiful book out. And I just said, have any of you thought about your breath today? Sort of like, What do you mean? And like, I know, it's crazy, isn't it, but just think about what's your breath like, and they first of all, just sort of sat back and took a breath, and you could just sort of see them all, like, just calm that little bit and just go that little bit inwards, which is hard to do, when there's so many things going on in our lives, especially for myself as an adult, you know, your minds ticking all the time, but especially for a girl going through so many changes with their peers, so many pressures with their peers, body changes, school pressure, you know, family pressure, and it's just a really nice time for them to start learning the strategies to be a strong and empowered girl.
Angela: You mentioned the pressures, this is something that I'm definitely interested in is the pressures that young kids are facing, which is why I've created this podcast so that we can shed a light on what some of those issues are, what are you finding in your role as a teacher but also through Fit Groms? What are some of those issues that you know, parents may not be aware of?
Celia: What is resilience is I think huge and I know that, you know, parents talk about resilience with me a lot and that stems from I think that starts at a young age, building that resilience up and knowing that you can tackle things that a little bit challenging in your life and I said to the girls that like resilience is sort of like climbing a mountain. And with a trail map, and it takes time, it's strength, you need strength, and you need help from people around you, too. So a big thing that we talk about is resilience and tackling all those things in our lives with resilience and with strength to be able to be, I suppose, positive and to be happy with lots of friendships, lots, we talk a lot about friendships, I've just started Junior Groms. And it was just wonderful to talk to these sort of eight to ten year olds about their friendships. But then moving to the senior girls, we still talk about friendships, and we talked about the wave of friendship, that ebb and flow of friendship, where we have some really high moments, we have some really low moments. And that happens through all of your life, it still happens with me now as being you know, older and just explaining it to the girls that it's okay that we have that ebb and flow of friendship. So that's another sort of thing that we talk about a lot, and trying to manage and deal with friendship issues and situations like that. But we've talked about anxiety, one of the girls the other day wanted to talk about anxiety, and that feeling inside that we get and how to tackle that being perfect. That pressure of being perfect at school and at being home, compared with other girls. And now the girls are getting a bit older and allowed to be on social media. Connection, as well. And body talk, we had a good body talk chat the other day as well. So there are lots of the talks that we've had, and I suppose the pressures in the girl's life that they feel.
Angela: Oh, my goodness, I just felt like crying while you were talking. And because in a way, as a grown woman, you look back and when you were a child, and you know the issues you're facing, but it wasn't anything like this, you know, that you had your friends or you had your parents or, you know, some, if you were lucky, you could speak to your parents openly. Now, a lot of experiences of young people aren't like that. But just for kids to be able to have that pressure release is what I'm hearing from you, that it's giving them the opportunity to vent and to share and to maybe even hear what other kids, what other girls are going through it imagine would be most anxiety relieving itself.
Celia: And the best thing is, is when we sit in that circle, and I'm you know, talking about all the maybe silly things or not right things that I've done in my life, and then you know, where I am at now that the girls providing their mates in that circle with advice, like, it's just incredible in them going like, oh, wow, that's such a great idea. That is what it's all about when that sisterhood is created. And there's that circle of trust, where girls feel safe and connected.
Angela: Now, the words role model just keeps coming up into my head as you're talking. And, you know, I know that having female role models for young girls is really important, but not the fake ones we see on Instagram, oh, my goodness, it just does my head when I look. And I think, unfortunately, a lot of girls, that's their only source, you know, at a young age of looking and going I want to be like that. And unfortunately they aren't often the people that we should be looking up to. What is the importance of role models for young girls and to have these positive women who are tangible for them who they can access? What's the role of role models? What's that had on your life? I guess I'd love to know if you had good positive role models in your life that have helped shape you to where you are.
Celia: Definitely one of them is my mom, you know that all girls with their mom or an auntie or grandmas, that beautiful role model, and my mom was a beautiful kind and caring and I suppose I am the woman I am today because of my mom and my dad. But yeah, I had lots of I suppose different role models within sport that I looked up to and listened to and just connected. We've just had fun, I suppose. You know, we could be talking on like a higher level now. But for girls, I suppose they're not thinking that higher level right now. They're supposed to just forming that beautiful connection and that feeling of being safe with me or with someone else. And that's, that's what I love to be that person. You know, not all the time you want to go to your mom and talk about things. Definitely not, you need other role models in your life to inspire you to, you know, create that drive. And also just to be there for them, I think is really important.
Angela: Yeah, I read recently and one of Maggie Dent’s books (From Boy’s to Men) around it was actually for boys and it was about the importance of having lighthouses in your life and you know, I look through my life and I think those lighthouses have always been there I just didn't always know it and sometimes you look back on your growing up years and you go yeah, that person was really important for me. You may not have known it at the time, but when you're older you can really appreciate it. Who are some of the people right now that you're looking up to or what sort of things do you tap into to keep your energy levels up for the girls and you know, to keep your health and fitness in check? Because I just say you know, just speaking to you, you've got this beautiful energy and aura around you. And obviously, somebody who wants to do this for young girls has to have their own practices and their own people to look to. What are they? What are they for you?
Celia: I suppose yeah, I've got a beautiful friendship group that provides me with that support and, and like my family as well, my aunties as well have had a big impact in my life, too. So there's some role models definitely for me that I connect to, I suppose I love reading about strong women as well within you know, books or watching TV, or seeing fantastic strong sports stars as well, that really inspires me. And I also think, living in a beautiful community too inspires you and being grounded, I think with nature and getting out there. And that, I suppose, is really important to me and who I am. Being fit and healthy is a big part of my life. And I suppose yeah, helped me become who I am today, and with my own passions. It's been a long journey, though, I suppose, you know, we're not all perfect. And I'm not perfect. But I suppose I did actually teach a bit of high school when I first came out of university. And I told the girls the other day that I was only probably about four years older than the twelves in the school, which had its challenges, but I had a year 10 fit girls fitness group. And this was a long time ago, before I started, you know, traveling, and I worked overseas as a teacher, too. And those year 10 girls had such low confidence, just talked terribly about themselves, and the little changes that we did each week and the different things that I connected through fitness, their confidence just bloomed and grew and connected them with being outdoors and moving. I think that's really important, too. Hopefully, that's answered your question.
Angela: Oh, absolutely. And during our whole conversation, I kept going back to my life as a young girl, and just thinking about how that influenced me. For these young girls, you know, you're looking at a lot of external pressures. And I know, it's not always just about body image. But I would like to just touch on body image for young girls. I know that one comment can really, you know, someone might just make one passing comment to a young girl, and it can take her off on a tangent around her thinking she's less than, what's your experience with body image with girls? And what can we do as adults? So whether or not it's teachers, health professionals, parents, what can we do with girls to encourage this positive image of themselves?
Celia: Education is key in anything that we do when you're, you know, have gotten a good understanding of yourself, but also as a mum, or someone that looks after a young girl that you're confident with yourself too because that's going to show them how you are as an individual. Yeah, body image stuff is hard. You know, it doesn't stop. It doesn't stop now. But I suppose we've got the tools as adults, and that's what I want to provide for those skills, you're not going to be able to avoid it, it's going to happen in their lives no matter what. But it's providing them with the tools and strategies for mindfulness and the strength to overcome that and say, hey, it's just me for the whole life. And I am beautiful. But I tell you what, though, the girls have got it like, I don't know, it's a beautiful thing where maybe it's just our little connection. But when we talked about body image, one of the girls just amazed me and I just said to her, you should be you could leave this like she was like we only have one body and we are beautiful. We've got to respect our body. And this is just who we are. I could have cried, it was just really beautiful. So I think yeah, being positive around their education, having confidence in yourself. And knowing that we're not perfect, we're not going to be perfect, and that making mistakes and growing in confidence is the best thing that we can do as individuals.
Angela: And you're right. It's a lifelong, a lifelong thing. I look at myself now. And I think, what did I complain about 20 years ago? You know, you're fitter, you're healthier, you’re more vibrant, but then you know, 20 years down the track, you go, what was I complaining about? You know, back then.
Celia: That’s right. And we didn't, you know, have social media back then. And the girls are aware, though, when you talk to them about the whole social media aspect and what they see and advertisements, you know, they'd have a bit of an understanding, but it's not real. But I said to them, it's when you start getting into a bit of a spiral, you have to recognize Oh, and you're saying I want this or I want to look like that or I wish I had that top or, you know, that looks really cool. You've got to be like, Oh, I'm actually spiraling right now. I need a stop. So it's just making them aware. Education about that, because if we don't educate girls about that social media and how different it is to real life, they're not going to know if you've never had a chat with them and sat them down and be like, this is you know, marketing. This is money. I think that it's so important to have those discussions with those girls. And I know it's hard like at 15 and 13. I know what I was like when I was that age, wasn't very nice sometimes. Those little steps are what creates that very important connection with your daughter and with the girls.
Angela: I just, you know, the pictures of Celeste Barber (@celestebarber)on social media, you know, she's hilarious. You say more about that. And I love showing my kids that I actually was very fortunate once to meet Celeste Barber just in the street. And I went up to her and said this was many years ago. And I said to her I love your work because it's giving girls another way of looking at things. And she goes by you to show your daughter that How old is she? I think she was like nine at the time. You don't let her read the captions do not like no, it's just giving a good conversational piece to say you know that this is crafted it's very it's a business, their business images, you know that people are trying to sell something and but it also on the flip side also appreciating real beauty and looking at things like you said about nature. And that beautiful social connectedness being there with your friends. That's what real beauty really is. Anyway, when we look at it, beauty changes, you know, it changes each year, it changes with each stressor, changes with each child.
Celia: Yeah, yeah, that's it, I'll look a little bit different maybe when I have my second kid.
Angela: I love these images right now of these women that we're starting to see come through, who are older ladies who you know, are really embracing who they are, rather than, you know what they look like. And you know, through that, they're looking, they're beautiful, you know, they're beautiful with that. So Celia, the Fit Groms is relatively new, but it is growing exponentially. What do you hope Fit Groms will be able to do for young girls?
Celia: Create a space where they'll feel safe, they'll feel connected, and that, I suppose a foundation is built in there in a lifelong journey of being healthy, whatever that looks like for that person. And to create some beautiful memories within their life that they can look back on and be like, Oh, that's right. I remember that time when Celia made us run five times up those stairs. But we're all laughing while we're doing it. That's what I want Fit Groms to be, is just a space where we can, you know, have fun, really and connect, which I think is just so vital right now in especially teenage years is that connection and, and letting them be heard.
Angela: Well, thank you so much for creating that platform for young girls. And I am hoping that we are seeing a change in how young girls are really viewing themselves and viewing their value in life, in society too because oh my gosh, get a group of women together. And anything, anything is possible at all, you know, groups of women together really do have a big ripple effect on society and on humanity you know. And I think when we start with these young girls like you are, gosh, who knows what you're creating through these girls and the beliefs in themselves and each other. And you know, what a beautiful thing. So thank you so much for starting it.
Celia: Thank you, Angela. Thanks so much.
Angela: So we have been joined today by Miss Celia Mulder, who is a primary school teacher and founder of Fit Groms. And if you want to know anything more about Fit Groms, have a look at the beautiful images that she's taking of these gorgeous sceneries that she's taking these girls in, please follow her on Instagram and Facebook at Fit Groms for both of them. And I'll obviously have all the links to all these socials below in the show notes. And if you want to find out anything more about the philosophy around Fit Groms, please check out the website at www.fit groms.com.au. Just calm because it's going to become a global phenomenon. I love it.
Celia: Let's wait and see.
Angela: Celia, thanks so much for joining us on A Kid's Life podcast. Thanks, everyone. You have joined myself and Celia, and I'm Angela Lockwood. For any other topics of interest to you, please check out on all of the podcast channels, A Kid's Life podcast. Thanks for joining me. And until next time, enjoy.
Angela: Thank you for listening to A Kid's Life podcast. To stay up to date with all new episodes, please subscribe on Spotify, Apple podcasts and Google podcasts. If you want to know more about The Inclusive Classroom or any of the other programs I provide, please go to www.angelalockwood.com.au. And until next time, slow down. Have fun and enjoy.