The single, most common question parents ask me is, “What is the most important thing I can do as a parent to help my kids?” Moms and dads who pose this question might expect me to say something like, “Monitor your teen’s music,” or “Offer more encouragement,” or maybe even “Lock your kids in their room until they’re thirty-five.” That’s why parents always seem shocked when I tell them that the most important thing they can do to become better parents is join a small group.
Initially, it may be difficult to understand the point of participating in a local support group or community. I mean, it’s the teenager who needs help, not the parents, right? Shouldn’t our sons or daughters be the ones who are forced to join? What good can participating in a small group do for parents?
Here’s the simple truth; parents need support. Teaching, training and otherwise taking a child from delivery room to adulthood is a daunting assignment. As a mom or dad, you’re going to face challenges that will test your patience, endurance, and faith. There will be days when you’ll feel like stepping down as a parent and looking for another job with less stress and better pay. That’s why we need support. We need to have a group around us who can encourage us when we feel low, offer help when we’re struggling, celebrate with us when things are going well and listen to us when life is spiraling out of control.
Also, with parenting groups you have a chance to interact with people who understand what you’re going through. Sure, we can share our parenting struggles with friends, pastors or family. But taking part in a circle of relationships linked by the common bond of parenting teenagers ensures that you can share struggles with others who are experiencing the same things you are. When you join a small group, either in your church or in your community, you have the opportunity to laugh with other parents about the crazy things your teenagers do, or vent the uncomfortable feelings that come with raising kids, all without judgment from other people. Within the context of a close-knit group, you can aid and receive support from other parents, and grow together as moms and dads.
When parents try to try raise their kids on their own private island, away from the advice and support of others, there’s a good chance they’re going to be left stranded! Proverbs 15:22 says, “Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisors bring success.” (NLT). In a room full of parents, there is a lot of wisdom that can be gathered. A parental support group not only offers encouragement for weary moms and dads, but also a wealth of knowledge you can use in your own home. You can avoid making mistakes with your own kids by listening to what other parents have tried in their families. Engaged in conversation with other moms and dads, you have the opportunity to receive feedback about whether you’re over-reacting or under-reacting with your teen. Bouncing ideas off of parents in similar situations may give valuable perspective on both your teen and your parenting skills. If you’re a single parent, getting involved in a support group with other single parents is critical. Together, you can share information about helpful books, websites, articles, or other resources.
Now, many parents tell me, “Mark, my teen is really struggling. If I join a group or a community, I would have nothing valuable to add.” But that is just not true. Many parents don’t even realize the wisdom they possess until they open their mouths and start sharing it with other people. Your insight is important and needed. And when you add what you know to what other parents know, the result is enough wisdom to fill a library with parenting books!
For Specific Problems
So maybe now you’re warming up to the idea of joining a small group. The thought of receiving support and gaining valuable wisdom sounds like an offer too good to pass up. But let me caution you not to get involved with just any group. To benefit from a close-knit community, you need to find the one that fits you and your family. For example, if you’re trying to raise a son or daughter who loves Jesus, it’s not a good idea to join the nearby Wiccan parenting group. Now this doesn’t mean that everyone in the group needs to share every single belief you have about life, religion, and parenting, but it is important to join a community that shares the basic tenets of your faith.
If your teenager has been diagnosed with Autism or Aspergers, find a support group specifically for parents like you. If your daughter is battling eating disorders or experimenting with drugs and alcohol, do some research to find a group that addresses those needs. But maybe your son or daughter is on track, and you don’t see the need to get involved anywhere. That would be a mistake! Join a support group anyway, and be a source of comfort or wisdom to other moms and dads. I guarantee that no matter how perfect your teenager seems, there will come a time where you need the backing of community friends. You’ll never regret taking some time out of your week to gather with other moms and dads and together become better parents.
How to Find a Parent Support Group
There’s no shortage of groups available that would love to have you. Sometimes the trick is to find them. You can do a search online for support groups in your town. Or get suggestions from professionals who work with teens in your area. Listings of community support groups are found at many local medical and mental health facilities. And check local churches for small group meetings.
If you can’t find a group that fits you; make one! Organize your own collection of moms and dads, and then start inviting people. You can’t wait around for someone else to put something together. Be a blessing in the lives of other parents who need a specific support group just as much as you do, and create one.
I would not say it’s impossible to parent without the support of others. But going it alone definitely makes the job harder. So don’t let shyness, a busy schedule, fatigue, or anything else stop you from growing as a mom or dad. If you’re looking for one way to start becoming a better mom or dad right now, join a community devoted to becoming better parents today.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, radio host, and the founder and director of Heartlight, located in Hallsville, Texas. For more information and helpful resources for moms and dads, check out our website. It’s filled with ideas and tools to help you become a more effective parent. Go to www.heartlightministries.org. Or read other helpful articles by Mark, at www.markgregston.com. You can also call Heartlight directly at (903) 668-2173. Hear the Parenting Today’s Teens broadcast on a radio station near you, or download the podcast at www.parentingtodaysteens.org.