By: Linda Sachs, LCSW, Community Outreach and Parent Support Specialist
So often we are dealing with life’s challenges in isolation trying the best we can to manage what is overwhelming. We may be asking ourselves to rely
on a toolbox that may not have all of the strategies, resources and support that we need to get through. Sharing what is difficult in our lives is not easy for most of us and therefore we often try to work things out quietly in isolation by ourselves. Support groups have not always had the best reputation – often conjuring up images of people sitting together complaining and in the end feeling more hopeless than when one walked in.
When a group is well facilitated it provides an opportunity to share with others who have similar concerns, without judgement, advice-giving, or leaving feeling worse than when you walked in. Support groups can be found with a little research and honestly one would never know unless they gave it a try if this could be helpful. Parents raising children who have a developmental disability have learned that this is a long and often confusing and lonely journey. The first and hardest step is walking in.
The uncertainty and awkwardness can be minimized by meeting the facilitator in advance and learning more about the group and the issues that are discussed. What initially feels like sitting in a room of strangers eventually can become the time of the week you most look forward to sharing with special friends. In any good support group, the facilitator is there to maintain an atmosphere of safety where parents are comfortable sharing, knowing that the group is there for everyone, not just one person and that they will be heard and helped to get their needs met. What often keeps people from joining a new group is concern that one will be forced to share before ready or that nothing positive will come of it.
Typically, there is so much to talk about and staying on topic and having the group members share the air time is the work of a good clinician. Parents are encouraged to share from their own experiences rather than giving advice. Sometimes just being in the presence of other trusted and caring parents provides the support that is needed. What is most often heard within parent groups is: “My family and friends don’t really get it. When I come here it feels so good because I know I’m not alone and I’m learning from someone who has been there before.” As professionals we understand that parents know resources in the community better than anyone and they provide so much help to one another.
Sharing resources and information on how to handle problems with school or with children’s behaviors becomes invaluable. However a very important additional bene t of support groups is learning as a parent that your needs and happiness are equally as important. A good support group helps parents develop a healthy balance, good self- care and coping strategies. Only then will parents have the toolbox they can access throughout their journey.
Linda Sachs, LCSW, Community Outreach and Parent Support Specialist at # 954-315-8664 or Linda @Jafco.org
JAFCO is a non-pro t social service agency in existence for 25 years is proud to serve the entire community. The JAFCO Children’s Ability Center provides a continuum of services to parents raising a child with any developmental disability. Services include family support, child enrichment, respite hourly, overnight and extended care and therapy. We offer support groups for the entire family including the moms, dads, siblingsand grandparents. Groups are offered throughout the week both day and evening times.