The concept of “Parent to Parent” is this:
Parents of children with special needs, who have come to accept and understand their child’s disability, are one of the best sources of information and emotional support for other parents of children with special needs who may be experiencing difficulties. By virtue of having “been there”, a unique bonding occurs between parents, establishing an almost immediate rapport and sharing of common feelings and experiences.
Supporting parents skills are enhanced though their participation in parent to parent support training; however, it is their willingness and ability to share their experience that qualifies them to positively interact with other parents. Supporting parents are not trained to be professional counselors or therapists, but are parents who have successfully met the challenges of parenting a child with special needs and, hence, are viewed by parents as capable helpers.
As a result of parent to parent interaction, parents are better able to approach their child’s ability to grow, learn and develop to his or her potential with an optimistic attitude and within a supportive environment. Early success in relating to this life experience will positively affect family relationships and future decisions made on behalf of the child.
We believe parent to parent support should be available not only at the time of the initial crisis, but throughout the child’s life. The areas of concern are endless and range from coping with the initial diagnosis to a myriad of specific issues.
FND believes that the benefits of parents helping other parents helps the developmental growth of families through heightened awareness, knowledge, and acceptance of their child’s special needs. Parent to parent support should be easily accessible within the local community to all parents of children with special needs.
The purpose of a Parent to Parent matching program is to match trained support parents to parents/family members who are experiencing a time of crisis or are seeking support, resources and information. Referred Parents are those who are:
- Experiencing stress related to their child’s disability
- Initial diagnosis
- Significant developmental events
- Experiencing a transition
- Coping with day-to-day life
- Seeking Information
- on specific disabilities
- on rare disorders
- about local resources and services
- Referred by
- Physicians or other medical personnel
- Agencies or other non-profit organizations
- Friends or relatives
- Self; received information through ads, flyers or other marketing
- Trained parent volunteers
- Able to relate to disability in a positive manner
- Willing to share their feelings and experiences
- Open-minded and non-judgmental
- Matched as closely as possible, to enable a true empathetic response.
Because this is the cornerstone of one to one support, it is important for families to feel comfortable in sharing their own experiences as family members. Referred families know that you, too, have a child with a disability. They know they have been “matched as closely as possible” with another parent whose concerns, interests and experiences are similar to their own. Not every family will ask you to tell them about your experience before they get to the meat of why they called for a Parent to Parent match, but it is important to be able to talk about yourself in a clear and concise manner. While sharing your experiences with families, it is important to identify the emotions that you felt throughout the event, including the negative ones. This allows parents to realize that all the emotions they have experienced or are experiencing are typical and natural and that they are not alone in feeling them.
Are You Ready to Be a Support Parent?
Consider the following statements:
- That the process of adjustment/acknowledgment can be helped by the opportunity to express and share feelings with a supportive person.
- A supportive person is someone who can listen with empathy.
- A Support Parent has a unique ability to empathize because they, too, have shared a similar experience.
- There is a direct connection between where the Support Parent is in their own process and their ability to provide support to another.
- That, generally speaking, a parent is not ready to take on the role of the Support Parent too soon after their own child’s diagnosis.
- That if a parent has not had the opportunity to share their own experiences and feelings
with a supportive person, he or she may not have the necessary experience to support another.
- Support Parents are in a different place than when they first learned of their child’s diagnosis. Support
- Parents have reached a balance in their lives, are able to recognize their own personal need for support, and able to look for and find this support outside their supporting role.
- The motivation to be a Support Parent is not self-directed, but is a desire to reach out and support another.
How do we know we are ready to support another person? Many Support Parents have come to see that the special needs of their child are “part of the day.” Parents may be better able to see what their child can do, rather than what they cannot do. Families may now feel they have a sense of control over their lives. They may not feel as overwhelmed. Whatever the reason, being able to offer support to another parent means that parents are probably at a point that is different from when they first learned about their child’s diagnosis. Ask yourself these questions: Do I believe I have something to offer other parents/family members who have children with disabilities? Can I listen without passing judgment on others? Am I able to meet the expectations of this role? Do I understand the difference between supporting and directing? Can I listen to other people’s problems without allowing them to affect my ability to deal with my own child with a disability? Do I have time in my life to commit to such an important process? Am I willing to allow others to make decisions which I don’t feel are correct? Do I believe that each culture has a right to its own beliefs and values? Am I prepared for the emotional impact of getting close to another person’s tragedy? Can I say “no” or turn for help when I am having my own difficulties? If you can answer “YES” to the above questions, you are ready to become a Support Parent/family member. If you would like to apply to become a Support Parent/family member, please follow the links below:
Parent to Parent Volunteer Application
Support Parent Information Form
For more information on Parent to Parent, please visit Parent to Parent USA at www.p2pusa.org.