Parent support groups exist to help moms and dads care for their children in the best ways possible; there isn't one singular type of "support group." From parent-to-parent support to professionally facilitated group counseling, these groups serve all kinds of caregivers who find parenting a challenge. The specific activities you will do in a support group depends on why you are there. While some groups focus on helping parents of children with disabilities or delays, others may serve single parents or those who are overcoming a struggle such as addiction.
Parent-to-parent discussions provide a sense of community, help the parents better understand their own struggles and offer the opportunity to vent. Not every parent feels comfortable with discussion-oriented activities; this is where a facilitator-led conversation comes into play. The group facilitator acts as a traffic director, waving quiet parents on and putting up the "stop sign" when it comes to ones who won't yield during the conversation, according to licensed professional clinical counselor Joe DeBonis. The facilitator may also come up with group-appropriate topics for discussion. For example, a group for parents with children with learning disabilities may spend time focusing on homework challenges, while a group for single parents may talk about introducing a new partner to the child.
Starting a meeting with an introduction can help group members realize what they have in common. A basic ice breaker is a simple introduction. One by one, members says their name and tell why they are there. For example, "My name is John and my child is autistic." A more in-depth version of this activity allows the members to voice a specific concern, such as "My name is Mary, my child is autistic and I'm really struggling with her inability to express affection." Another way to break the ice is to ask, "What is your favorite memory from your own childhood?" An ice breaker can also create a sense of community through comedy or popular culture by asking fun questions such as "What animal would you be?" or "What movie character would you be?"
Social Family Activities
Not every parent support group activity involves only the moms and dads. Some activities also engage the children. Social gatherings offer the opportunity for children with similar backgrounds, conditions or issues to get together and meet other kids who are like them. For example, when parents who adopted children of different races wanted their kids to know children who were like them, the Louisville Family Support Group organized monthly children's group activities and paired similar families in a buddy program, according to the North American Council on Adoptable Children. The specific group activities will vary, but may include an evening ice cream social, a summer picnic at the park or a weekend-long family camp-out.
Making lists can help parents better understand the challenges that they and their children face. For example, in a support group for parents of children who have lost a loved one, the facilitator may ask the members to think about a traumatic loss they suffered as a child. The parents would then write down how they remember feeling, what behaviors they recall engaging in and how the loss changed them. A group for parents of children with learning disabilities may recall a time when they felt lost at school or parents of teens in trouble my remember their own adolescent struggles.