You Aren’t Alone: How Parenting Support Groups Can Help
By GetParentingTips.com Staff
Read Time: 7 Minutes
Sometimes the job of parenting can make you feel like you have no clue what you’re doing. Just when you figure out one stage of your child's life, there’s a new one with a whole new set of things you don’t know how to handle. You think, “Is this normal? Am I doing this right?”
Since kids don’t come with instructions, every parent can use some support in dealing with the challenges of raising a family. Asking for help is the first step in getting the tools you need and deserve as a parent. The good news is that there are many groups who can provide this support.
Parenting Education Classes: Learn the How-To’s
It’s not unusual for parents to rely on trial and error or past experiences to figure out the best ways to raise their kids. It might not occur to them to take an actual class for it. But parenting classes are one of the easiest ways to learn effective ways to take care of your kids and yourself.
Here is what you can get from a parenting education class:
- Information about child development so you know what to expect as your child grows.
- Effective ways correct your kids when they misbehave.
- Recognizing your strengths as a parent and how to feel good about them.
- Finding resources in your community that can help with parenting and family matters.
- Connections to other parents for support and encouragement.
Finding the Right Parenting Class
Parenting classes are offered by for-profit and nonprofit organizations, so you will find classes that are free and others that require a fee. The good news is that there are lots of support groups for parents to meet a variety of family needs. Whether you’re expecting a baby, a new parent, the parent of a young child or a teenager, a single parent, or a grandparent or caregiver helping to raising children, there is a class that is right for you.
Topics can vary depending on the specific class you take and your children’s age group. Classes may focus on:
- Newborn care.
- Support for children with special needs kids.
- Effective ways to discipline.
- Managing behavior problems.
- Learning different ways to communicate effectively.
- Managing the impact of a divorce and custody issues.
- Finding health and safety resources.
- How to balance work and family time.
Before you sign up, it's always a good idea to get as much information as possible about the group. Many parenting classes are available online and are often self-paced so you can fit in the sessions around your busy schedule. Online classes usually range from four to eight hours. Some in-person classes are a short meeting or an all-day workshop. Costs vary, too. Some classes are free, others often start at around $20 and go up, depending on the course, how long it lasts, and who is conducting it. You can contact the Texas Parent Helpline, search online, or reach out to local resources such as hospitals, community centers, or parenting organizations to find a class that is right for you.
How a Parent Support Group Can Help
There are likely times when you feel you’re the only parent struggling with a child who’s behavior is out of control, in trouble at school, or always throwing a temper tantrum. In reality, many parents are facing the same problems. Luckily, support groups for parents can connect you with them to help find solutions to those issues.
A parent support group brings new parents, experienced parents, and parenting experts together to learn and talk about issues like these and many others. Groups can give you moral support and the chance to compare parenting challenges and ways to tackle them. Support groups for parents can be a game changer, especially for moms and dads who don’t have friends or family close by to help them with parenting challenges.
Do Parenting Support Groups Really Work?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) surveyed moms who had participated in a support group for parents. Those moms reported that the groups made a difference and they came away with useful skills to help them raise their children. In support groups, moms:
- Found ways to have more quality time with their kids.
- Learned to better understand their child’s feelings.
- Learned how to let their child express feelings.
- Learned how to give their child the right amount of control.
- Developed new ways to help their child learn.
Benefits of Parent Support Groups
No matter how old your kids are or how much experience you may have as a parent, you can always learn something new in a parent support group. And, you can help others by sharing your experiences with other parents who need a little help.
There are many benefits of being part of a parent support group:
1. You learn that you’re not alone.
Support groups for parents are for people facing the same situations and struggles. Most people feel better about their problems when they hear others share that they have the same issues.
2. You can connect with other parents.
When you hit a low point and aren’t sure where to turn, a support group for parents can give you a place to talk openly without feeling judged. It’s also a way to make new friends who you can meet with outside of the group to continue supporting each other in your parenting journey.
3. You get parenting tips.
Support groups for parents can help you learn new parenting tips. If you can’t figure out why your child is behaving a certain way, you can ask people in your support group if they have faced a similar situation and how they resolved it. It’s helpful to hear what worked (or didn’t work) for parents dealing with the same thing.
4. You can find and share parent resources.
Attending support groups for parents will often connect you to other help for a range of challenges. In addition to the help you receive in class, you can learn about books or articles relating to your family’s situation.
5. You will build a stronger bond with your child.
Ultimately, parents want their relationship with their child to be the best it can be. Not only does a parenting support group give you the tools to build those relationships but it also can help you see the positive things you already share with your child. You may discover that something you see as a challenge is actually a strength.
6. Groups encourage self-care, too.
Finding time for self-care is likely not on your to-do list. However, parent groups can be a great resource for learning self-care tips and encouraging you to find time for it. Don’t feel guilty for taking time for yourself. Balancing family time and time for yourself is important to your mental well-being.
Types of Support Groups for Parents
Parents often join groups based on what they have in common, such as the ages of their kids, the problems they are facing, or the ages and experiences of the parents themselves. You can find these types of support groups for parents in most communities:
- New parents
- Parents coping with a specific issue (autism, health, behavior, substance abuse)
- Parents of children of certain ages (toddlers, tweens, teens)
- Postpartum support
- Single parent groups
Find a Support Group That Is a Good Fit for You
The type of parenting group that is best for you likely depends on the age of your child and the issues you are facing. Before you join a group, think about what you’re hoping to get from it. Are you looking for more interaction with other parents to have a bigger support system? Do you need to bounce ideas off others or get tips for a specific issue?
Here are some important things to consider:
- Do you want to meet in person or online?
- What topics or issues do you want talk about?
- Who typically attends the group?
- Are there any requirements for joining?
- How often does the group meet?
- Do the meeting times work with your schedule?
- Does it cost anything to join the group?
- How does the group maintain confidentiality?
- Do you know anyone in the group who can help you decide if it’s right for you?
How to Find a Support Group for Parents
- Call the Texas Parent Helpline at 833-680-0611.
- Ask friends, family, neighbors, or coworkers if they know of any local support groups.
- Ask your doctor, pediatrician, or therapist for a referral.
- Reach out to community centers, religious institutions, libraries, or family service organizations in your area.
- Look for social media listings for groups related to your specific needs or interests.
- Explore online parenting sites for community sections or places where parents can connect virtually to seek support.
- Visit 211.org for parent support groups in your area. You can filter the search results based on location and specific needs.
- Call a mental health professional or organization.
Support Groups for Parents Are a Win for Everyone
When you go to a parenting class or participate in a parent support group, you’ll be setting yourself up for an even better relationship with your child. Support groups for parents provide:
- A better understanding of how to respond to your child’s needs as he or she grows and changes.
- New skills and tips for dealing with specific parenting challenges and demands.
- Better ways to communicate with your child and family members.
- Increased confidence because your new skills will help you feel better about the decisions you make.
- Less stress as you learn how to better manage issues at home and prevent burnout.
Parenting can often throw you a curveball, and it can be tough to keep up with what you need to know. Besides providing emotional help and practical tips, support groups can arm you with the steps you can take to be the great parent you want to be. It may feel like a big leap when you first join a parenting support group, but the rewards it can bring will be worth it! Sign up today for a class or group that is right for you.