Parenting a child with a disability can be a very isolating life. Many times families feel like they are the only ones in the world who have experiences like theirs. They feel lonely. They believe that no one understands.
It’s important for us to realize that we are not alone and to reach out and ask for help. One way is to join a parent group. A parent group is a group of people who get together and support each other in caring and making decisions for their child. When parents help each other, everyone benefits. Check out the Connecting with Other Parents on this website.
It can be very encouraging to be in a room full of people who know what your life is like. People who know what it’s like to sit in a therapy office multiple times a week. People who know what it’s like to feed a child through a feeding tube. People who know what it’s like to stay in the hospital for an extended time…or whatever your particular story is. The parents gathered understand each other. It is a comforting feeling, especially for a family who was feeling alone.
Parent groups are also a great place to learn. The best information and tips come from people who have “been there” and have lived it. People who are in the trenches are the ones who know the real answers and have the real life stories. You can learn from other parents about good websites for information, books to read, or agencies to contact. Parent groups offer a wealth of knowledge and experience. And parents are so willing to share what they have learned so that the next parent doesn’t have to recreate the wheel.
These groups can often lead to true relationships and friendships. Families can become each other’s base of support. Friends can support each other during times of need. Bringing meals, running errands, giving a hug or a quick phone call or text, or folding the laundry are some practical ways that friends can help each other. You can also learn how to speak on behalf of your child from attending parent groups and get encouragement to do so. Sometimes the group can have a voice. There is power in numbers. The world is more likely to hear a group of people speaking out about a cause or an illness than to hear a single voice.
Check out this website for parent groups on Find Services, Groups & Events. Some groups are for specific disabilities, like Down syndrome or autism. Some groups are more general and are open to a variety of families. Spend some time searching through the parent groups to find one that interests you. Also, check out the Family Support page on this website to learn about other forms of family support.
While families sometimes feel alone, you can find strength in joining a parent group. There is much to be learned and everyone can benefit. Remember, there is power in numbers.