Participating in a single parent support group has many benefits for the whole family. However, you might find yourself in an area where either there is no established group, or the ones you've tried aren't currently focused on the areas of single parenting where you need the most support. If so, don't give up. Perhaps the time is right for you to start your own single parent support group. The following tips can help you get started:
Begin by making a list of all the single parents you know. Include acquaintances and even the friends of your friends, family members, and coworkers. For example, if you know your coworker's daughter is a single parent, ask your coworker to put you in touch with her. Once you've developed a list of people, begin contacting them individually to inquire about whether they would like to participate in the new support group you're starting. In addition, as you speak with individuals who are interested, ask them to spread the word about the new support group in their circles of friends, family members, and coworkers.
- Decide Where to Hold Meetings
You might start out by meeting at a local coffee shop or at someone's house. Keep in mind, too, that your local public library may have meeting space available to you, and many large stores, restaurants, and malls have "community rooms" that you can use free of charge. However, make sure you call ahead of time to find out whether you can reserve the room for a particular date and time. Also, determine whether you will provide babysitting at the meetings, because that will affect where you decide to meet. If you do plan to offer babysitting, consider asking for space at a local church or synagogue. You might even be able to recruit a few adult volunteers to help out!
- Create a Flyer Advertising Your Group
You can use your computer's word processing software to come up with a flyer to announce the date, time, and location of your meetings. Try to keep the flyer simple, and be sure to spell check the document before you print it out. Also, consider making the flyer black-and-white, rather than color, in order to save on printing costs.
- Use the Flyer to Advertise Your Meetings.
Post the flyer at the grocery store, in the library, and in your local coffee shops. You may even want to create bookmark-sized meeting announcements that you can leave in local bookstores and consignment shops. Also, if you have kids in school, don't hesitate to ask whether you can send home copies of the flyer. Due to the cost of reproducing large quantities of the flyer, you may decide not to do this on a regular basis. However, it can be a convenient way to advertise your first meeting to a large group of parents.
- Use the News Media to Advertise Your Meetings.
Call your local newspaper. Many times, they will not charge you to publicize a support group meeting through the community events page. You can also type up a simple press release to announce the formation of your support group and fax it to your local paper. This may encourage one of the local writers to do a short piece on your group, which could generate more members. In addition, contact any local radio stations and ask whether they'd consider scheduling a brief interview with you.
- Plan an Agenda for the Initial Meetings
During the very early stages of your group, you may want to focus on providing opportunities for parents to share their experiences by talking about various topics in small discussion groups. For example, one week's topic might be communication. During the discussion time, members could share with one another what's working well for them in this particular area. This will naturally facilitate the sharing of new ideas, as well as help members get to know one another and possibly even go home with one or two ideas they can apply right away.
- Anticipate Growth
It's true that there may not be many parents at your first meeting, but the group will grow with time. One way that you can make communication easier for the group is to generate a list of everyone's email addresses. This way, you can send out quick reminders about meetings and activities. In addition, you'll eventually want to develop a core group of leaders who will share the responsibility for planning the meetings and publicizing the group.