Over the course of a child's 2 years in Rainbows, 3 years in Brownies, or 4 years in Guides, there is a chance for the leaders to really get to know the girls' individual personalities, and there is real satisfaction in seeing challenges tackled successfully, skills mastered, growing independence - and that is one of the best parts of Guiding for the Leaders.
But - we have to accept that they are only 'our Rainbows/Brownies/Guides' temporarily, we only have them on loan - as they draw towards the end of their 2/3/4 years, we should be preparing them for the next step, and then handing them over with a fond farewell and our best wishes for the future. And it is that preparation and handover which is perhaps the most important part of our job as Leaders. Peter Pan is a fairy story, we can't keep the girls in the one section forever, and we do them a disservice if we try, or keep them for 'just a little bit longer' for the wrong reason.
Most girls, as they approach 7/10/14, are ready to move on. Fact. It's gradual, some are ready sooner than others, but by the time 'that special birthday' comes round, most are outgrowing the things they loved when they first joined the unit, and want (and need) new challenges, to do more adventurous things, to have bigger experiences. And so they should do. And if we feel that a significant number of the girls in the unit aren't ready by the time they are old enough to move (not just the occasional less-mature one, or those with special needs) then we should ask ourselves, is that maybe our fault - are we providing a challenging enough programme for the girls, to help them develop the skills they will need as Guides - the teamwork, the planning and organising, the self-management?
Transition shouldn't mean being thrown out of the unit the week after your birthday with no place in the next section organised, or turning up on the doorstep of a strange hall, and walking into a room full of big scary girls running around and ignoring you, whilst you haven't got a clue what's going on or who anyone is - but that happens all too often. Guiding nationally has done it's bit, by preparing booklets/activity packs on transition for each section, but it relies on Leaders being responsible enough to use them - horse to water and all that. There has long been official encouragement of exchange visits being made before the night comes when the girl actually 'makes the move', and special badges to hand over to mark the occasion. But we need to meet our counterparts in other sections halfway, and work to build the links between the units, arrange visits.
Originally, the Aim of the Brownie section was spelled out in the books. And it was clearly stated that the Aim of the Brownie section was - to prepare girls for being Guides. Everything they did as Brownies, all those badges, challenges, games and all - was meant to be focussed towards that target, they were not ends in themselves. Perhaps it's time we took that Aim and re-applied it, not just to the Brownie section, but to the Rainbow and Guide sections too. Maybe we should have national campaigns for each section - let go of your 7/10/14 year olds . . .