How one woman created her own support group
With divorce on the upswing and the original family foundation being divided, there is a growing population of single parents needing support and information on surviving the breakup of the classically acceptable family unit and the reincarnation into the new single parent lifestyle.
With the advent of this new family structure comes confusion and a need to find others going through the same transition who can share their experiences and gain strength together as a support system.
Single parents are no longer in the minority — in a poll taken March of 1996 – 52% of ALL parents in the United States are single parents – with different challenges than two parent homes. We are now the majority!
I was truly motivated to find some single parent support once my son Sam began school. Being newly separated, I was going through quite a bit of turmoil; in fact my head was spinning with fear, doubt and confusion. I felt alone in my challenges and my friendships had changed when my lifestyle changed from married to single.
But, dwelling on the challenges doesn’t change them – finding a solution and emotional support sustains and gives us strength to face challenges otherwise faced by two parents.
One supportive solution I have discovered is forming a single parent group within the school system. This group incorporates support for the parents, therapy groups for the children, child-care coops, lectures, seminars, social adventures, single parent discounts within the community and an emotional and career support network.
We have a monthly Forum with guest speakers and lecturers, we have counselors for the children, and we are forming issue-oriented weekly therapy groups for the adults.
I recall two years ago when I sent my son off to kindergarten, I found myself on the school playground eyeballing the ring fingers of the women and men standing around me. I was a newly single parent looking for support, and there was no way for me to discover who was a married and who was a single parent.
A year later I have surrounded myself with other female and male single parents, and have found a niche for myself and my son. And that niche is growing in size. So far we have 40 single parent men and women in our elementary school single parent group.
I was surprised to discover this group had never been organized before (even though it is no small feat). After attending a PTA meeting at our school, I was stimulated to form a single parent support group that catered to the special and individual needs of single parents…the need for child-care assistance, emotional and therapeutic support for themselves and their children, educational information in the form of lectures, training seminars, family and group activities, and social/ recreational activities for parent and child.
Our school was very receptive to the idea, and I very much encouraged other single parents and elementary schools to begin their own single parent groups. I have to admit that formation and start-up is gradual.
First you have to learn who is a single parent. I did this by creating a roster for sign-up at the PTA meetings and recruited people I knew were single parents. With the help of another very creative single mother in the school, we wrote a blurb in the school newsletter stating the formation of the group and the location of the first meeting, which was on-sight in the school library.
Our first meeting was incredible! The Vice Principal of the school (also a single mother) was there, and we had a single parent psychologist who facilitated a partial support/therapy group in the hour and a half meeting, which also included a speaker from the community. Child-care was arranged for those parents who had no alternative.
In the next monthly meeting we incorporated a support group for the children (ranging in ages from 6 to 9) in lieu of a sitter.
The adults went around the room and shared who we were, the age of our child/ren and what our direct issues and concerns were. The children, who met in another room, were split up by age, made collages about “family” and talked about their feelings on the level appropriate to their ages.
The concerns varied…the custodial father needed a female role model for his daughter; the sole support mother needed a strong role model for her son and tips on discipline and managing anger; everyone needed support regarding stress, financial issues, discipline, and re-entering the dating world. Mostly, we just needed a space to share our concerns about our children, listen for solutions and not feel so alone and isolated.
I strongly suggest those single parents looking for a supportive network start their own Single Parent Group – the benefits are gigantic and the truth is – we are a majority now!
Imagine setting up single parent groups within each school district and arranging monthly meetings for all the districts to meet and share concerns, experience and knowledge. We could really be a strong community support group… country-wide!
Tips to Single Parent Group Resources:
- Don’t be afraid to call your favorite columnist, author or spokesperson to be a speaker in your monthly forums.
- Also remember merchants in your favorite stores may be single parents willing to help with discounts.
- Consider the directors of university psychology programs/clinics as excellent referral sources.
- Contact local community newspapers or newsletters on and off-line to get the word out about your group.
- Get tips from someone who has already established a group (or get connected with single parent groups on-line or in other communities).
Single parenthood is not a deficit…it is an opportunity to actively create extended family units that are both empowering and foundational to the future of our society. It does begin with you! begin with you!