"It takes a village to raise a child." You may have heard this saying at one time or another, and for good reason. If you're a parent, having support systems are essential, and people like family and friends can help to provide that helpful support and guidance -- both day-to-day and during difficult times. But there may be times when the specific advice you're looking for isn't readily available in the support systems you already have established. For example, maybe you have a special needs child and you want to understand better how to care for him. Or maybe you just need to connect with someone who has been through the same thing. In these situations, parent-to-parent networks may be a great choice for finding the resources that you need.
There are many different types of parent-to-parent networks, and by searching online you can find one that is best suited to your needs. Sometimes networks address a specific issue or disorder, such as caring for a child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) [source: CHADD]. Other times, they apply to more general needs, but are limited to one state [source: Texas Parent to Parent]. Each network will offer different resources, but there are common trends among these networks and their Web sites. Often they will offer a resource directory, newsletters, articles or training sessions. Through their Web sites, these networks sometimes will match parents for one-on-one peer support, as well, connecting them to people with similar needs and allowing them to discuss concerns via phone or e-mail.
Often the most important thing to remember when raising a child with special needs is that you are not alone. Parent-to-parent networks can provide useful information and, perhaps more importantly, an empathetic listener to help you work through your difficult times. With so many options out there, finding the right parent-to-parent network for you may seem like a daunting task. To get a handle on the types of local parent-to-parent networks available, read on to the next page.
Types of Local Parent-to-parent Networks
Parent-to-parent networks exist in many forms. Some of these networks are national, while others focus on linking parents in a specific region or city.
Nationwide parent-to-parent networks often serve as support to local networks, and beginning your search with these may help you to narrow things down. Their Web sites often have a directory of other networks that may interest you or that may be located in one specific region [source: P2P USA]. Also, a nationwide parent-to-parent network may be the best choice if you are looking for support relating to a less common disorder or disease. However, if you would like to work with a local parent-to-parent network, there are many out there that might meet your specific needs.
The subjects of local parent-to-parent networks range from general to specific. Many states have general parenting support networks that focus on issues that affect all families, from early childhood development to preventing risky teen behavior, as well as ways to handle conflict and keep families strong. These networks are often broken down into smaller regions and allow parents to connect with other parents in their area through online chat rooms and blogs and discuss issues that are prevalent in their neighborhoods [source: Strengthening Families Illinois].
Specific parent-to-parent networks can address concerns related to particular family situations or specialized childhood diseases and disorders. There are networks, for example, that provide support groups for single, divorced or widowed parents. Other networks focus on aiding parents who are raising a child with special needs, from learning disabilities to genetic disorders. These provide links to informational resources as well as offering support to parents through discussion boards and parent-to-parent matching, which links two parents in a similar situation.
With a bit of Internet research, you can find a network in your area that addresses your needs. Once you have found a network, you may discover a wealth of resources that can help you work through your current situation. Read on to the next page to learn what you can expect to find in a parent-to-parent network.
Benefits of Local Parent-to-parent Networks
As a parent, you may have many unanswered questions pertaining to your role as a mom or a dad. You can seek advice from friends and family, but if you are having a specific problem, you may need advice tailored to your current circumstances. This is where a parent-to-parent network can be very helpful, as it can provide information, classes and support.
One of the most significant roles a parent-to-parent network can play is that of an educator. The networks are there to answer your questions and address your concerns, and they are typically designed as spaces where you can find the answers that are difficult to find. Through Web sites, online discussion boards, newsletters, articles and videos, these networks attempt to help concerned parents.
In addition to providing important information, many parent-to-parent networks provide links to organizations and programs that can help a family with a specific need. This may mean connecting a parent to volunteer organizations that have "buddy" programs, or it may mean connecting parents to valuable medical resources in the area. A parent-to-parent network can serve as a liaison between parents and the available support in their community, which may be especially helpful for parents who are new to handling a certain family situation [source: P2PN].
Parent-to-parent matches are perhaps the most personal aspect of many of these networks, as these directly connect parents who share a particular situation. This may be as casual as an Internet chat where parents can discuss concerns, or it may be as personal as pairing a new parent with a trained parent volunteer who is familiar with dealing with a particular concern. These matches can serve as mentors, answering questions and providing guidance [source: P2P USA]. Many local networks also host or provide connections to in-person support groups. Each of these services intends to create a community of support that specifically deals with the situations a parent faces daily.
Local parent-to-parent networks can be an incredible resource for learning, and they can also help to provide an empathetic community that understands what you are going through. For more information on parent-to-parent networks, follow the links on the next page.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- CHADD: Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. 2009. (Accessed 12/27/09)http://www.chadd.org/
- MUMS National Parent-to-Parent Network. April 22, 2009. (Accessed 12/27/09) http://www.netnet.net/mums/
- Parent to Parent Network (P2PN). "For Parents." (Accessed 12/30/09)http://www.parent2parentnetwork.org/forparents.htm
- "P2P USA: Frequently Asked Questions." Parent to Parent USA. 2009. (Accessed 12/27/09) http://www.p2pusa.org/Bottom_FAQ.html
- "Parent Networks." Soy Report. December 27, 2009. (Accessed 12/27/09) http://www.soyreport.org/ParentNetworks.php
- Parent to Parent USA (P2P USA). 2009. (Accessed 12/27/09)http://www.p2pusa.org/
- Strengthening Families Illinois. 2007. (Accessed 12/27/09) http://www.strengtheningfamiliesillinois.org/index.php/main
- Texas Parent to Parent. 2009. (Accessed 12/27/09)http://www.txp2p.org/