Parenting Support Groups and Online Forums: Do They Really Help?
Parenting support groups and forums can be lifesavers. Parenting is hard: it brings challenges and frustrations, and sometimes it can seem like the stress is pulling you under. In parenting groups, fellow moms and dads in situations similar to yours toss you a line, pull you into the boat, and help you stay afloat. Belonging to a parenting support group can be particularly helpful when you have a child with special needs, a health condition, or a mental illness. If you are considering reaching out to other parents for help, this information can help you decide if a parenting support group, online forum, or parenting network is right for you.
What are Parenting Support Groups, and How Do They Work?
According to parenting and childhood researcher Dr. Barbara Dillon-Goodson (2014), “There is a strong census [among studies] that parents matter in how their children develop and function.” Parenting support groups help parents raise their children well and with increased ability to handle family stress.
Different types of support are available. You can choose what suits your personality and unique needs. Among them are
- Parenting support groups
- Parenting online forums
- Parenting discussion boards
- Parenting networks
Parenting support groups exist to improve the lives of parents and children. Parents meet with other parents to connect and learn new information and parenting skills, they adapt this information to their own family. As a result of support groups, parents and children often positively change their attitude and behaviors.
Groups can be informal or formal. Informal groups are more loosely structured than their formal counterparts. Informal groups are led by parents who are parenting children with the same needs as the other members. In informal groups, members exchange ideas, vent frustrations, brainstorm, problem-solve, connect, share positive stories and even laughter.
Formal groups, in contrast, are structured and have a specific agenda or curriculum. Many are led by a professional therapist who is knowledgeable about parenting styles and methods as well as with children and their developmental stages and unique needs.
Online parenting forums and discussion boards are community-based networks. They’re not quite support groups because they lack the deeper level of connection and interaction offered by support groups. However, they’re like support groups in that they are ways parents can ask questions, gain resources, and feel less alone.
Parenting Support Groups Really Can Help
Parenting groups benefit members. Parents, kids, and the family unit as a whole experience a calmer, more focused approach to problems and solutions. Exchanging ideas with and receiving encouragement from fellow parents in similar situations changes knowledge, attitude, and behavior. This new inspired parenting boosts kids’ social, intellectual, and emotional development.
Support groups can help parents in many other ways, offering benefits like:
- Helping parents feel less alone in their struggles
- Receiving support from people who understand
- Exploring and discovering new ideas
- Brainstorming and problem-solving
- Making new connections and forging new friendships
- Discovering useful parenting resources
- Having a safe place to vent and de-stress
- Enjoying having people you can talk to and listen to supportively
Benefits of parenting groups are both immediate and long-term. Parents can take new ideas learned in a meeting and apply them at home right away. Other skills and parenting strategies strengthen over time.
Forums, discussion boards, and networking don’t typically foster the same degree of bonding and connection as parenting support groups do, but they’re not without benefits. These are places to ask specific questions, receive targeted answers, and return to what you were doing before seeking information.
Regardless of how you do it, seeking and giving support helps you and your child thrive. Find what fits you and your family to enrich your parenting experience.
Finding Parenting Support Groups, Forums, and Networks
Because of the benefits they offer, parenting support groups are incredibly common; therefore, finding one that matches your and your child’s needs can be fairly easy. You can find parenting groups online and off.
Offline groups and networks are community-based. Find them in your area by checking for information in places like hospitals, clinics, community centers, libraries, or religious organizations. Non-profit organizations often have a wealth of resources to share. Sometimes you can locate parenting groups online through meetup sites or listservs. You can also use support group locators.
Find online parenting groups, forums, and discussion boards with search engines like Google and Yahoo! Use these resources to get started:
- Yahoo! Groups
- Parenting Forums
- Parenting: Get Answers
- Health Boards: Parenting Issues Message Boards
Joining parenting groups for parents facing similar challenges—a child with ADHD, for example—will help you with social support and gaining parenting knowledge and skills to assist you in helping you, your child, and your family thrive.
Peterson, T. (2019, June 29). Parenting Support Groups and Online Forums: Do They Really Help?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, February 28 from https://www.healthyplace.com/parenting/parenting-help/parenting-support-groups-and-online-forums-do-they-really-help