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How to Develop a Parenting Support Group


By Katie Basson

Becoming a mother means learning to cope with a whole new set of lifeís contradictions. Parenting can alternate between bringing you ultimate joy and triggering mind numbing depression. The richness of your experiences deepens; and your awareness of all things in the world, both good and bad, is much keener. It should come as no surprise, then, that this new journey requires a strong crew to help navigate the waters. In todayís world, though, finding those essential support people can be difficult. It sometimes means that you must be creative in order to craft for yourself the ideal support group.

Join an online community

Perhaps the easiest way to find like-minded parents is to join an established online community. There are many websites that cater to mothers looking to form a support network, and they have the benefit of providing specialized services to a wide range of people. You can join a group that caters to mothers who are young, single, working, divorced, self-employed, or any other distinction for that matter. With so many sites, youíre sure to find a group that works for you.

Start a book club

Sometimes the best support comes from an activity unrelated to parenting. Gathering a group of women together with similar interests is bound to provide food for the soul. Engaging in intellectual discussions about literary characters and themes can sometimes help you see your own situation in a clearer light. It also may give you the answers you seek without having to hash through the problems youíre having with your childís latest behavioral issue or your inattentive spouse or your demanding boss. Gathering a book club together is easy-simply put up flyers at local bookstores and libraries. You can meet at the local coffee shop and have your bookstore recommend titles.

Post a flyer in your neighborhood

For many of us who are at work all day, we may not have many opportunities to connect with our neighbors. That doesnít mean that memorable friendships canít be formed; it just takes a bit more effort. Host an open house in the next few weeks, and just like a door-to-door salesman, you can slip an invitation into mailboxes all along several streets in your neighborhood. By reaching out to your community in this way, youíll likely discover parents with similar interests, potential babysitters, and perhaps a new friend for your child.

Ask for class lists

Your childís daycare or school is a rich source of information about a potential support network. They can provide you with a contact list of parents who have children the same age as yours, and youíve already got a lot in common with these parents. You are likely going through the same trials and tribulations regarding the stages of child development, and you have a common set of experiences relating to the classroom. You may be able to set up play dates, carpooling, or enrichment activities for your kids. Itís also likely that youíll be able to lend a compassionate ear to one another should problems arise.

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Hang out at the playground and library

If youíre looking to develop friendships with other parents, then there is no better place to be than where children play. No matter how busy a family gets, you can be sure that playground visits are a highlight of the week for those with small children; and the library is a must for the younger set as well as school age kids who need to do homework. In both cases, the adults who accompany their children will be eager to connect with another adult. Itís usually easy to strike up a conversation since there is always so much happening in these settings, just donít forget to swap names and phone numbers if you feel youíve made a good connection. Keep a set of business cards or a small notebook for this type of occasion, so youíll never miss an opportunity to follow up with a new friend.

Friends are an essential part of the village that is oft referred to as the essential ingredient for raising a child. As a parent, there are many demands placed on your time and energy. It only makes sense to keep on the lookout for those people who will help shore you up when you need it and who will provide the companionship and insights you need to be the best parent you can be. It is all too easy for parents to feel isolated and unsupported, but if you make an effort to reach out to others, youíll be able to create your own village.

© Katie Basson
Katie Basson is a parent, teacher, and creator of The BITs Kit Better Behavior Kit for Kids.† Katie teaches seminars on behavior modification techniques, and coaches parents through challenging behavioral and educational issues.† She is on the Board of Directors of the YWCA and is an educational advisor to Zoesis, Inc., a children's software company.† Katie's expert advice has been sought for articles in The Boston Globe and Parents Magazine.† Sign up for her weekly Parenting Solutions newsletter at bitskit.com.

 

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