Parenting is tough – and that’s the truth whether your child is has a disability or not. From their infancy to their adulthood, each development step comes with its set of challenges and rewards, which is why parent support groups are so important.
As parents, it’s crucial we stay healthy and mentally well when parenting children. Self-care plays a huge role in ensuring parents are keeping on top of the jobs in hand. Self-care for parents might include
- Seeing friends and family
- Having quiet time
- Enjoying a hobby
- Having time for a relationship
- Reading a book
- Joining a parent support group
What is a parent support group?
A parent support group is a network of individuals with one thing in common – parenting. In relation to parenting a child with a disability, it can be very rewarding to meet like-minded people who face the same (or similar) set of challenges associated with the disability itself. Parents can come from all walks of life and still have in common this one special thing – a child with disabilities.
A parent support group can be delivered in a multitude of ways, some of which are more appropriate during the covid 19 pandemic. They can include:
- Online forums at a dedicated website
- Facebook groups
- Whatsapp group chats
- Face to face meetings/meet-ups and activities
- Phone support
- Livechat / Zoom meetings
What are the advantages of a parent support group?
There are many different advantages to be enjoyed when you join a parent support group. While at first it can seem a little daunting, the rewards soon make up for it.
Here are just some of the great things to expect:
1) Up to date information
With a busy life to lead, it might not always be easy to get the latest information on policies, medications, education, and scientific findings relating to your child’s disability. When you are in a parent support group, you gain the knowledge of everybody else in that group. So, for example, if someone has heard of a clinical trial or educational policy change that affects your child, a parent support group saves you the hassle of having to track down this information yourself.
2) Emotional support
There can be tremendous pressure in raising a child with disabilities. From the stigma, your child’s condition brings, to the physical demands of caring for them – there’s no sugar-coating the fact that some days are tough.
However, when you have friends with similar challenges, it can feel great to pull together. If you are a new parent, you can learn from some of the wisdoms shared with you by the more experienced parents. If you are having a bad day, you can speak to one or more of the parents in the support group for some comfort.
You can also share practical tips on keeping mentally healthy, help each other with tasks and give each other encouragement and praise.
3) Build skills
No parent is perfect, and there is no manual to follow. Parents are constantly learning and developing parenting skills as their children grow. Being in a parenting group is a fantastic way to skill-build, whether it be learning how to deal with bullying, giving and receiving cooking tips or sharing fun activities that the children love to do.
While you might have a fantastic community around you already, not everyone will know what it’s like to raise a child with disabilities. When you join a parent group with this specific agenda, you can build a niche community of people who possess knowledge and experiences you can relate to.
5) A social life
Parenting support groups can be a great way to have get-togethers without the kids. You might find you can enjoy a genuinely fulfilling social life with these like-minded individuals. Having a healthy social life will ensure you help to maintain good mental health. In turn, this will help you become a happier, more engaged parent.
Are there any downsides to parenting groups?
Unfortunately, no system works perfectly and as with any group, you might find parenting groups have a set of challenges as well as rewards. Some parents can dominate conversations (or conversely, barely participate at all). Other times, people can fall out or become overwhelmed. And, of course, sharing personal information about yourself with others might not come naturally to you. It is a good idea therefore to have a group admin or leader who you can speak to if you have any trouble with the parenting support group.
Are there parenting groups for specific disabilities?
It’s entirely up to you which type of parenting group you join. You may want to explore a generic parents of children with disabilities group, as these groups tend to be larger with more activity. Or, if you want to, you can find a parenting support group for parents of children with specific disabilities – for example, autism. The benefits of joining a more niche group is that the issues raised and tips given will be more fitting with your own needs and preferences. You may wish to experiment a little with which groups you join, or may even choose to join more than one group at a time.
We can help
At Integrity Inc, not only do we support children and adults with disabilities, but their families too. We encourage the parents of children with disabilities to speak to one another, connect, and offer a facebook group for people in Arkansas too.
There is absolutely no reason to feel alone in the process of parenting a child with a disability. There are thousands of people nearby who are in the same, or similar, position and are eager to connect.
If you would like to learn more about parent support groups or any of the other services we offer here in Little Rock, please click here. You can also call us directly on 501-406-0442. We will gladly answer any questions you have and point you in the right direction.