One of my favorite topics is how to help mothers to overcome their resistance to join a support group. I have met in my practice so many women who miss a great opportunity to become healthy and to find support just because… they are afraid “to be part of any group”. Many of them will not give it a chance, choosing rather to struggle in isolation. This is really sad!
Group work: 1. work done by a group of people in collaboration; 2.education, training, or therapy given in a group.
Parenting is not a natural skill, it's a social practice we learn from our parents, our own perceptions and some media representation of what the perfect parent should be. We forget that actually having a support group enables a parent to find out how others share ideas and shoe case theirs experiences can alleviate the anxiety parents feel. In western culture we are alienated from a community approach to child rearing and very seldom remind ourselves that, “it takes a village to raise a child”. The lack of support and not having places to turn to or people with experience with parenting leads to a self-fulfilling cycle of building doubt and guilt.
If you are one of those, who struggle with the idea of becoming part of a support group, please consider the following reasons:
You will have a time set apart only for yourself.
Yes, within the group, you finally will have time to pay attention to yourself, to listen to your body, mind, heart and soul and to reflect on your thoughts, your feelings and behaviors. Personal and group reflections will help you to deal with this life-altering transition into parenthood and to accept the emotional impact of the unexpected hardship of first years of your child’s life. And perhaps the greatest realization against all your doubts (and guilt) will be that you learn to trust that you are exactly the parent your child needs. There is divine wisdom in the connection between you two. Your imperfections are a source of nourishment for your child’s journey and whatever happens… it happens for the good of both of you.
You will have an opportunity to share and to support.
The act of sharing with others within a group initiates the healthy process of allowing you to off load and realize that actually you are in the same boat as many others. You gain a perspective that it's natural to be anxious at times and you discover you can build resilience through acknowledging it. Taking steps to understand that it’s an advisory emotion only, can liberate you to then be able to step away from it. It’s a mutual process: you learn from others and you enrich other’s life by sharing your experience. Many women give great feedback about the power of feeling much better simply because they journey with others who are learning to manage their way through similar experiences.
You will learn ways of coping with and managing life’s demands
Anxiety is exaggerated fear and can arise from a bad childbirth or a feeling of failure to bridge the gap between perceived expectations and ability to reach them. Repressed emotions over a long period can also lead to free floating anxiety and or depression. Whatever is your case, here in the group, we learn and experience practical tools that help you to accept your emotions, to manage them and to cope effectively with daily realities. You will get to know yourself better – your needs, your values, your priorities, your strengths, your struggles.
You will improve your parenting skills
The group is a territory of questioning and finding “your” way. You will realize that there are no straight A’s in life. And you will learn to reconsider carefully those external messages, for instance the valuing of academic achievement or other societal standards and pressures, expectations etc. that convey a message that there is a single right way, or that someone else assessment of your worth is more important than how you feel about yourself. You will discover there are actually more options in life and you will begin to let go of black and white thinking. You will start asking yourself questions, which is great! If you discover yourself reflecting on your ability to be a parent, it is an indication that you are really progressing and on the right track.
You will have an experience that gives you a sense of sisterhood.
We are all in this together! Babies are only babies once. In the group we learn to cherish every moment with them, for those sleepless nights really do go by fast! We cry together and we laugh a lot, because there is almost no situation in which you can’t find (and share) humor. And this amazing journey together brings women closer and create friendships that last.
“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much." - Helen Keller
The best parents take time for themselves. Any parent who invests all of their time into their child, with no breaks, will have nothing left to give. As the airlines say, when an emergency occurs and the oxygen masks drop down, put the mask on yourself before assisting children or others. If the parent cannot ‘breathe’ then they are unable to be there to help their child in any way.
Coming to the group is a break, is an investment, is healing!
Author: Tatiana Ceban is a counsellor who specializes in reproductive and perinatal mental health. She is committed to providing psychological support for women and their families experiencing challenges with conception, pregnancy, delivery, postpartum anxiety, and depression, parenting stress and worry, perinatal loss and grief, etc. Tatiana assists people navigating through infertility and assisted reproductive technologies (ART). Tatiana holds a Master’s degree in Counselling and is trained in perinatal psychology. Currently, her private practice Parenthood4D Counselling (www.parenthood4D.com) is based in Blenheim, Marlborough. Also, Tatiana is a coordinator of Postnatal depression Marlborough Charitable Trust and group facilitator.