This past weekend GCP Mom Gwendolyn Adolph hosted the very first GCP live event. She gathered a wonderful group of moms and invited me to talk with them about some of the issues we focus on in the blog. One of the key things that came out of our discussion is how much parent groups can help moms (and dads) stay focused, confident and sane in their parenting choices. We at GCP have been in parent groups for over 10 years and found them invaluable as we faced a variety of issues with our children.

In a post back in 2011, GCP spoke with Patricia H. Shimm, author of “Parenting Your Toddler: The Expert’s Guide to the Tough and Tender Years”, who has organized and run parent groups for decades. Shimm explained why parents should form or join a parent group:

“Parents need a place to talk with each other without their children around in order to become better and more effective parents. Parenting is tough to do in isolation. We all have issues with our children, such as ‘my son won’t sleep through the night’, ‘I don’t like the way my child talks to me’, or ‘This teacher is being unfair to my son’. The parent group weighs in on the issues and offers perspectives and advice. We often can’t solve our own problems, but we can look at other people’s problems and help them with theirs.”

Groups can be small (6-10 members) or larger (15-20). They work well when the people are compatible and comfortable with one another. But don’t try to gather all of your closet friends into a parent group. It is better to have a group of people come together expressly to talk about specific issues who won’t be so tempted by their familiarity to go off topic.

An essential component of the group (however large or small) is confidentiality. In order for everyone to be comfortable enough to speak honestly and candidly everyone has to trust that what she is saying will stay in the room. This is critical. Other important rules: never ridicule someone’s actions or feelings, never embarrass or insult anyone. And laughter is key. We all have to be able to laugh at our mistakes while we get advice about how not to avoid making them in the future.

There was plenty of laughter in the room last week as that great group of thoughtful and focused moms traded tales of raising boys. Hope that they will continue to gather and share. You can read more about parent groups in the original GCP post, found here.