Parenting is one of the hardest and most important jobs anyone can do. Every stage along the way brings more questions and difficult choices. Yet honest conversations about the challenges of parenting are rare — especially when a parent or child is struggling. That’s where parenting support groups come in.
Research shows that support groups provide healthy parenting skills, an increased sense of empowerment and a feeling of belonging. Moreover, parenting support groups can be particularly helpful for parents of teens who are coping with anxiety, depression or other mental health issues.
Parenting support groups assure parents of troubled teens that they are not alone. They can talk to others who understand the challenges, emotions and practicalities that they’re dealing with every day. In addition, they can blow off steam in a supportive, nonjudgmental environment.
Parents sometimes believe that they’re “bad parents” if their child is struggling. As a result, their shame and embarrassment can prevent them from talking to other parents about their experience. Furthermore, parents may feel like they’re the only ones having a hard time. Thus, they believe that other parents have “perfect” relationships with their kids and know just what to do when their child is suffering.
Hence, parenting support groups are a reminder that there are no “perfect” parents or “perfect” kids. All parents doubt themselves sometimes. And everyone makes mistakes along the way.
Newport Academy’s Parenting Support Groups
Newport Academy offers a series of parenting support groups called Positive Parenting. In addition, these groups take place both in person and online. Thus, parents around the country can access the presentations and discussions.
Hence, the Positive Parenting series addresses topics including:
- Self-care for parents
- The power of positive role modeling
- Addressing substance use
- How to cope with teen dependence on technology
- The negative impact of social media.
At the Center for Families, part of the Newport Academy family of programs, ongoing parent-to-parent support groups offer education and parenting skills. Furthermore, many parents in the groups have been attending for a long time. Thus, they have experience with teen mental health and substance abuse challenges. Hence, they provide guidance for other parents who are beginning the healing journey.
Parenting Support Groups Are a Form of Self-Care
Parenting isn’t easy even when your child is well and happy. As a result, parent burnout is common. In one study, a control group of parents of healthy kids was compared to a group of parents of chronically ill children. Subsequently, 36 percent of parents of sick kids showed clinical burnout symptoms. That’s not surprising.
However, 20 percent of the control group showed clinical levels of burnout as well. In other words, one out of every five parents is suffering from burnout. Consequently, parents who are burnt out have less energy. In addition, they have less patience and perspective. Therefore, their ability to care for their children is compromised.
Parents who find reliable, positive self-care approaches are better able to care for their children. Additionally, they do so with creativity and resilience. Moreover, they tend to have strong relationships with their kids. Therefore, parenting support groups are a form of self-care that promotes both parents’ and kids’ mental health.
A Way to Access Resources and Build a Support Network
Another advantage of parenting support groups is the access they provide to information and resources. For example, parents can get referrals to therapists in their area.
Furthermore, other parents may be able to recommend outpatient or residential programs that helped their teens. In addition, parents share services, books, websites and other parenting support resources that they found helpful.
Moreover, parents of teens can work together to come up with creative ideas for helping a teen whose behavior is challenging.
Parenting Support Groups Help Parents Build Skills
A support group for parents of teenagers is a great place to get positive parenting tips. That’s because parents talk about the coping skills that work for them. In addition, they share their tools for creating healthy communication with their teenagers. And what works for one parent sometimes works for another parent as well. Plus, parents also learn what didn’t work well for others. Hence, they can avoid certain pitfalls.
Furthermore, parents can receive feedback about whether they are overreacting to particular teen issues or behaviors. Or they discover that they might not be doing enough. Since other parents have probably experienced something similar, they can give honest feedback.
Moreover, parenting support groups provide a space and time for parents to focus on what’s happening with their teen. And they can look at how the entire family is affected. This space for reflection can be hard to find during daily life. That’s because parents are in the midst of coping with the moment-to-moment challenges that arise. Therefore, focused time in a parent support group provides the opportunity to consider options. As a result, parents can make thoughtful plans and decide on next steps to support the family’s health and thriving.
A Place to Find Hope and Humor
Often parents come to a parenting support group for the first time in the midst of a crisis. And they may find it hard to imagine that things will ever be set right again. In addition, they may be terrified about their teen’s mental health and their future.
As a result, spending time with other parents can be an enormous relief. Especially helpful are stories of teenagers who have been through treatment and are making steady progress. Such stories provide a sense of hope and relief. They are a reminder that teens have a very good chance of recovery when they receive comprehensive, evidence-based treatment.
Moreover, dealing with a teen mental health crisis or difficult teen behavior is serious work. However, parents benefit from maintaining a sense of humor. And it’s easier to find humor in a situation when we can share our stories and experiences with others who understand what we’re going through.
Different Types of Support Groups for Parents
There are various types of support groups. Some groups focus primarily on parent education. Therefore, meetings of these groups include talks and presentations by mental health professionals or other experts.
Other groups put parent-to-parent discussion at the forefront. In addition, there are groups that focus on parents coping with a specific issue, such as teen anxiety, eating disorders, autism or substance abuse.
Hence, parents should consider what they want out of a parenting support group before researching and attending groups.
How to Locate Parenting Support Groups
To locate parent support groups, parents can try the following:
- Look for online listings of support groups.
- Ask a doctor or pediatrician for a referral.
- Call a local therapist or other mental health professional for suggestions.
- Contact the mental health unit of a local hospital.
- Residential treatment centers can often provide information about support groups.
- Nationwide organizations, such as Because I Love You (BILY), have local chapters around the country.
In summary, parenting support groups offer a wealth of benefits. Therefore, parents feel better equipped to help their children. In addition, they have a support network to turn to. And they may even make lifelong friends among the other parents they meet in a group. As a result, parent support groups can be a powerful step along the path of healing.
Photos by Newport Academy and Rawpixel from Unsplash.
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