Four important considerations when running a group with parents

This blog entry was authored by Pat Jewell, Program Manager
Parenting and Early Years Program the Australian Childhood Foundation

When thinking about facilitating a group for parents, there is much to consider.

You may have worked with groups of people before, such as a group of professionals where you were presenting some information they were all interested in or working collaboratively on a project of mutual interest.

Working with a group of parents, however, is completely different. The facilitator of such a group needs a variety of personal qualities and professional skills. If you are working with parents in groups, or are considering doing so, here are four key considerations we have found to have significant impacts on our own group work;
  1. Recognise that parents attend groups for many and varied reasons that may not be apparent at the beginning. Some common reasons that we have come across include court ordered attendance, supporting a friend to attend, being escorted by a partner, curiosity and interest.

  2. Consider and acknowledge the differing expectations that the group members have of you, the content and the other participants. The varied reasons for attendance mentioned previously also come hand in hand with varied expectations. Such expectations can dramatically impact the group experience and facilitators need to keep this in mind.

  3. Acknowledge that group will have different values and beliefs about their role as a parent, again these differences must be considered. All these differences mean the group will not begin as a cohesive close-knit structure and will need to be guided to become that as the parents spend time together in the group situation. We recommend having two facilitators to work with the group of parents as this often enables individual parent’s needs to be met as well as supporting the rest of the group at the same time.

  4. Parents may bring to the group particular grievances and concerns that they want you to solve. Balancing the needs of that one parent with the often-competing needs of the rest of the group takes patience and the ability to acknowledge the parent as well as directing the content back to the main group of parents. Work with your co-facilitator on how such moments will be managed between you; we recommend doing this in advance of the sessions to prevent being caught off guard.
If you are considering facilitating a group for parents or becoming a facilitator of a Bringing Up Great Kids parent group further information on both can be found on this link.

For further information on facilitating a group for parents please email parenting@childhood.org.au