How Support Groups Work
Fathers who share a common bond of some kind will often form a support group. The idea of a support group is to link up with other fathers to share concerns and frustrations, to find ideas for being a better dad in your circumstance, or just to make friends and create a network of people who can be a support to one another.
Generally, support groups form somewhat spontaneously. Two or three dads may decide to start hanging out together and sharing their experiences. Then others are added as the word spreads and the group starts to meet regularly and to take on some structure.
Fathers support groups tend to be informal and kind of free wheeling, at least at the beginning. But as they mature, there tends to be more structure and formality. Groups frequently meet in a restaurant, in a hotel, in a community center or church or in a home. Generally, contributions are not necessary, but expenses may be shared for a meal, refreshments or to defray other costs.
Why Join A Support Group?
If you were to ask some fathers about why they began to participate in a support group, you'll get a variety of answers. They usually focus around networking, learning new tools, or seeking help when things get out of control.
You Need Support When the Going Gets Tough. Some dads affiliate with a support group because of a particular crisis. For example, a support group in our area brings together dads who have been recently widowed. Other groups focus on fathers who are recently divorced, or dads who have children with a certain disability. In these cases, fathers are reacting to a personal challenge that is unique and they find support and direction in a group.
You Need Friendship. Some dads link up to a support group because they feel isolated or alone. Maybe they want to be a great dad, but others around them don't. Some fathers just need a connection with other men; a support group can be a good place to find that companionship.
You Need Information. Support groups can be a great source of information and tools to help you be a better dad. This information can range from finding local resources for child care to help in balancing work and family demands. Dads can find help with their children's medical needs or discipline problems.
On-Line or Real Time?
Support groups for fathers can take many forms. Historically, support groups happen in your own neighborhood or community. And those real-time personal support group experiences are great. They offer a human connection in close physical proximity, which is a great advantage.
But some fathers prefer to join a virtual support group online. The online experience opens the support group to a much broader range of fathers from diverse backgrounds, and offers anonymity which can be helpful in some circumstances.
Finding Support Groups
In your own community, there are a variety of sources for finding a support group to meet your needs. Often, local newspapers (or the newspaper's website) will offer free listings for a variety of support groups with either a meeting schedule or a contact phone number. Fathers' support group information can often be found in parenting resource centers at local hospitals, colleges or schools. A local family therapist can also sometimes help connect you to a group. If you are looking for a religiously oriented group, ask your religious leader or check the bulletin board at church.
For most local or community based groups, word of mouth is the best approach. Do a lot of asking around-a little detective work can yield great dividends.
If you are looking for an online group, you might check one of these resources.
The About Fatherhood Forum: Our own forum here on About Fatherhood is used by many of our visitors as an online support group. You can post questions, share experiences, respond to others' concerns and link up with fathers around the world.
The Solo Parents Network: This site offers chat, postings and other interactive methods of connecting single parents, whether moms or dads.
Support groups can be of help to any dad who feels a need. Whether just for fathers in general, or for a father with a special need or circumstance, fathers' support groups can offer connectivity, ideas and camaraderie for any dad.