Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Parenting Groups

By Christina VanGinkel

If you are a brand new mother, or a mother of a child that has needs decidedly different than your previous children, finding a group of other mothers to talk to can be the ultimate form of life saving that you need at this point in your life.

In times past, young or first time mothers often had their mothers, mother in laws, or other female relatives close at hand for help, for answering questions, for basic moral support. Times change, and with it, the needs that were being met by immediate family have evolved with the other changes in our society. Help is still there, now you just have to look for it and be willing to ask someone if you cannot find the support, you know you need, or wish you had.

There is often help available, and if not, maybe you could be the one to get a group going. Check the bulletin boards of the local grocery stores, community center, or churches in your area. If you do not belong to a church, call a few up and see if they have any groups ongoing, and if they accept members that are not members or even non-denominational. Many churches open their doors to groups that have a specific cause, such as dealing with new motherhood, twins, etc., and the group happenings are in no way church related and gladly welcome members of all faiths.

Hospitals are another place that often free up empty space in the evenings for groups dealing with all different parenting problems and needs. Phone the hospitals in your area and inquire if there are groups that meet on the premises and if so, inquire if they have a list of available groups or can point you in the direction to find out what groups are available. Our local county hospital offers meeting places to a variety of groups and lists the ongoing schedules in the local town paper each week. If you have a special needs child, chances are there are other parents going through the same or similar problems that you are, and would like an individual that has some understanding of what they are going through to hash things over with too. If there are no formal groups, maybe ask the doctors you are dealing with to pass your name and number on to a parent or two in a similar situation, in essence opening the door to a group or sharing of the minds to be formed.

If there is a small paper in your town or locale, be sure to check it for ads posted by individuals and organizations offering informal group meetings. If you work at a medium to large size company, and there is a place for informal announcements, check there also. Local colleges are another good source. Check their bulletin boards, or phone their administrative offices to see if they have any information about any parenting groups that might be in the area.

If you cannot find anything that sounds like a good fit, or they all sound too formal, consider running your own ad. If you are just looking to start up a group for parents with like aged children, ask your church if they would sponsor a place to hold the meetings/playtime once a month. If you have a plan in mind, such as a toy exchange, or something that does not include bringing the kids along, such as a night out for women with newborns, talk to your minister or priest to see if the women's club would sponsor it, then volunteer your own time in a couple of months when your newborn is no longer so little.

Finding a group, an outlet, someone else to talk to, can be a lifesaver through the simple fact that having someone to talk to that has been through what you are going through, or is there at the same time, is peace of mind. Discussion with other adults is a good way to know that you are not alone. It may not be as good as having your own built in female support system, such as your own mother or grandmother, but then again, it might even work out better.

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