How to Find Parenting Groups
6 things to look for -- and avoid -- when joining a parenting group.
How do you find parenting groups? What makes a good one?
Kids don't come with a manual -- unfortunately. (Or an off switch!) Whether you're a new mom or a seasoned one, you don't always have all the answers. And that's okay. There are lots of places to turn: child care books, pediatricians, friends, etc.
But one of the best places to get answers can be parenting groups -- other moms and dads just like you. You can find parenting groups in many spots, from your library to your community center to your place of worship.
Don't forget about the Internet. Online parenting groups can offer a welcome addition to your normal circle of advisors. If you're just looking for the answer to one question, check out Care Smarts to get thoughts from other parents, nannies and caregivers. For more in-depth conversations and relationship building, find local parenting groups on BigTent. You put in your zip code and search through groups based on location, interests, ethnicity, kids' ages, etc.
But how do you know a parenting group is right for you? Here are six questions to ask yourself before joining one:
- Is It Active?
Check out the threads to get a sense of how energetic the group is. Look for lively discussions that you might want to weigh in on. Some groups are defunct and it can be hard to know which ones. Reach out and see if you get a response before you officially join.
- Do People Get Together?
You may want an active group offline as well. Look at the calendar for family-friendly and adult social events.
- Are There People Similar to You?
If you're a working mom in your mid-30s, a group filled with stay at home moms in their early 20s may not be the best fit. Find parenting groups with people who are in a similar stage of their lives, so you have more in common. Are there age-appropriate activities and conversations that are relevant to your life? (Though different can be fun too!)
- Do You Want Proximity or Affinity?
Some people are interested in joining a local group, while others want to connect around a specific parenting experience (multiples, attachment, postpartum/breast feeding support, etc.). Decide what you want -- or join groups for several things.
- Is It Positive?
Sometimes groups can veer off onto a negative path. Steer clear of one where there's a lot of shaming, blaming and flaming. You need a happy and helpful influence in your life, not negativity.
- How Much Time Will It Involve?
Don't forget to think about your availability. What are you looking for in terms of time commitment? Do you want to just pop into a group once in a while to read what others are saying? Or do you want to be an active member by chiming in regularly and becoming a part of a community?
Remember, there are forums out there for everyone. You just have to find parenting groups that meet your needs.
Tiffany Smith is the director of content and publicity at William Woods University. She has written for All You, Time for Kids and the Boston Globe. And, as a former babysitter, she knows a lot about fun games to play with kids. Getting them to eat their veggies -- that’s a different story! Follow her on Twitter at @tiffanyiswrite.