Whether you just had your first child or you’re a seasoned mother of three, surrounding yourself with other mothers can give you a lifeline of emotional support and priceless grass roots parenting advice. For more than a decade, support groups for parents have been springing up across neighborhoods, inside churches, across online cyber meet-ups, at local playgrounds and during Mommy and Me classes.
Organizing a Parent Support Group
If you can't find a parenting support group to meet your needs or you found a national organization but no affiliated local chapter, consider starting your own chapter. While it might sound intimidating, with the support of a national organization -- or even just a few friends forming a small circle -- if you build a group for moms, advertise and offer emotional support, fun, non-judgment and camaraderie, they will come.
>> Start a playgroup with little or no money
Here's how to begin:
- Connect with existing national or regional branch if one exists. Start by contacting a national or regional organization to see how to start a chapter in your area.
- Start small but secure a core group. If you want to start a niche group that doesn't already exist, for instance, "Mothers with children with Type I diabetes," get online and search the threads for mothers who share similar interests in your community. Put out a request on a forum/message board asking such as "Seeking mothers to start Orlando Moms of Kids with Type I Diabetes" group. Recruit a minimum of five members to assist in forming the group.
- Share responsibilities. If your group grows, organize committee chair volunteers to facilitate social events, playgroups, marketing or public relations, community service, etc. Sharing the load attracts willing and committed volunteers and helps people avoid burn out.
- Secure a regular meeting place. If you plan to offer meetings with speakers, workshops, activities, etc., find a meeting place that can accommodate your needs and allows for membership growth. A living room is ideal for small social gatherings as long as the host is comfortable entertaining strangers in her home. Look for local community centers, restaurants, library meeting rooms, senior center community room, a YMCA, a women's auxiliary club, or local social hall as your group grows. Be sure to get a firm commitment from each facility director before every meeting.
>> How to make mom friends
- Create an effective marketing flyer. If you plan to market your group beyond word of mouth (which is always the best advertisement for parent groups), create a colorful and creative flyer to post around town. The flyer should state who, what, where and when and clearly communicate the goals and mission of the group. Tear off slips on the bottom of the flyer with a contact name, phone number, website and email make it easy for prospective members to connect.
- Research non-profit rules. If you're starting a chapter under an existing organization that requires a membership fee or you plan to charge a membership feel to offset expenses be sure to thoroughly research the legal, financial and tax ramifications of forming a non-profit organization.
- Focus the message. During meetings, if you're the leader, present a warm, friendly and professional demeanor and clearly state your name and the organization's mission. Invite attendees to introduce themselves if they're comfortable by organizing a round circle forum. Icebreaker questions can help people get comfortable and connect such as, "How many kids do you have? Why did you attend tonight? What's your biggest parenting challenge?" Encourage discussion but don't force it. To avoid misunderstandings, clearly and politely state in all written and verbal communication whether children are welcome at certain events. You might for example post and relay a policy such as: "Children of all ages welcome at playgroups. Adults only at meetings, please. Exceptions are breastfeeding mothers with non-crawlers."
>> How to find the right playgroup for you
- Market in high traffic areas. Post (with permission) flyers in locations that regularly attract parents such as enrichment classes (art, music, sports), libraries, playgroup settings, churches, pre-schools, pediatrician offices, daycare centers, parks, grocery stores, etc.
- Regularly reward volunteers and thank participants. Be sure to always acknowledge and thank facility directors, members, volunteers, speakers and community event supporters with a written note or small gift of appreciation. Polite gestures of gratitude convey professionalism, build positive community relationships and encourage the community and members to have a vested interest in the success of the group.
Virtually every kind of parenting community is available online or through a local chapter affiliated with a national non-profit organization. And remember: If you can't find the special interest parenting support group you want, starting your own will allow you to connect with like-minded mothers in your area!
Read more on mom support
Why all moms need good mom friends
Start a playgroup and save your sanity
Finding other moms online