If parents express an interest in making social connections, you may want to offer suggestions, information, or services. Sometimes parents will not identify a lack of social connections or emotional support as an issue. Instead, they may express concern about a child’s behavior problem or their own depression. In addressing the parent’s concerns, you can also provide information about how these needs might be met by connecting with others (e.g., a support group for parents with similar issues). You can also provide general information on how expanding social connections can reduce isolation and support parents.
Consider sharing the following:
Benefits of a broad social network
- Helps ease the burden of parenting
- Models positive social interactions for children and gives children access to other supportive adults
- Provides support in crises
- Offers opportunities to help others
Ways to broaden a social network
- Overcome transportation, child care, and other barriers—for instance, taking a bus or carpool to a play group or joining a babysitting co-op to meet other parents and have occasional child care
- Access community resources, especially those with which the parent has some experience (a church he or she attended, a Head Start program where the child is enrolled, a cultural center that offers services in the parent’s native language)
- Join a parent’s group or play group in the neighborhood, or start a new group
Some neighborhoods and communities provide ample opportunities for neighbors to come together and friendships to develop. In other cases, agencies and organizations may welcome help in starting groups that bring families together for mutual support. These groups might start as an outgrowth of a widely recognized need in the community, such as new families that have just moved to the area or concerned citizens working against community violence. Community involvement is critical for these groups to be sustained over time. As a service provider, your role might be bringing individuals together (including parents), providing a meeting place, or simply encouraging a community leader to establish a group to meet a particular need.