Parent to Parent Support began in Nebraska in 1971 as the Pilot Parent Program of GOARC in Omaha. It was a support program for families of newly diagnosed children with developmental disabilities and was the first peer parenting program of its kind in the United States. Due to its success at providing parent directed information and support, you can now find more than 600 parent-to-parent programs throughout the nation, including P2P USA. The philosophy behind parents helping parents has been researched and documented as an essential component of any comprehensive family support system.
Parent to Parent of Omaha serves families of children, teen, and adults. It strives to keep the families well-informed, emotionally supported and active in their local disability community.
How is Parent to Parent part of a comprehensive system of family support?
There are many different parent support and information opportunities available to parents, some directed by professionals and others are directed by parents. Sometimes the support is provided in a group setting and sometimes the support is provided individually.
Ideally, communities will offer parents a broad spectrum of parent support options so that parents can choose the one that is most comfortable and meaningful to them. At times parents want to talk individually with a professional about a particular issue or need. Support that is provided by professionals in a one-on-one setting can be either informational or emotional support. The one-on-one nature allows it to be easily tailored to the specific needs or concerns of the parent.
When parents are given a choice as to whom they would want to speak with about their child with a disability, they most often mention as a first choice other parents who are sharing their experiences. Sharing family experiences with others in similar circumstances is an important source of social support. Literally hundreds, if not thousands, of parent support groups have been started by parents wishing to talk with other parents encountering the same issues.
Parent to Parent support rounds out this continuum of support, providing parents with one-on-one emotional and information support from another parent who has been there.
How does P2P Omaha make the best Parent to Parent match possible?
Matching a new parent who has been referred to the program with a supporting parent (veteran trained parent) is the heart of all Parent to Parent programs (P2P). When making a match common family characteristics are taken into consideration. P2P Coordinators use the following considerations in the pairing process:
- Age and sex of the child as well as the nature and severity of the disability
- Family structure (e.g. biological parents, foster parents, single parent, adoptive parents)
- Geographic location of where the family lives
- Primary language spoken
- What is the greatest concern of the referred family (i.e. upcoming surgery, child’s future, behavioral issues)
- Similar communication style and philosophy about parenting
What if a 1:1 match is difficult to find for a particular family? When then?
In some instances it may not be possible for the program to make a close match using the P2P best practices matching criteria. Sometimes the child may have a rare disability, the parents may live in a rural area or they may request that we use a specific match criteria that is different than what we traditionally use. When local efforts to make a match are not successful, the P2P coordinator can enlist help from other programs around the United States. Coordinators can use a national matching list-serve to find a match from another state and link parents together.
If a match cannot be made with help from another program, then we may consider using a Supporting Parent who has a child with a different disability or condition than the referred parent’s child. Parents report that even though the mentor parent may not have a child with the same disability, they can still be helpful by listening, giving guidance and emotional support. Often in connections such as this the share disability experience is enough to ensure a good connection between parents.
If these two options do not fall into place as a match, the program coordinator may consider using an “untrained” veteran parent to give support. There are often excellent parents to be found within the program who have not gone through training but may still be uniquely qualified to help a new parent if asked.
What is a group match?
Group opportunities and activities from a support group or a disability organization can also afford parents and caregivers an excellent way to meet other parents. Parent to Parent Omaha networks with a variety of local and national support groups and can share their information and activities with you.
“Group and Parent to Parent support in conjunction with disability and health professionals in the community–round out the continuum of care that can be tailored to fit the specific needs and concerns of families of children, teens and adults with disabilities.”
Are there regular opportunities to get together with other new and veteran parents involved with the program?
The P2P program of Omaha hosts the following family activities that all families of children with developmental disabilities can participate in:
Kids Club – offers parents an opportunity to have a date night out while the kids are taken care of. For ages 5-12 years.
- Sibshops – Sibling support program meets on various Saturday evenings of the month and is facilitated by adult siblings.
- Annual Events – Easter Egg Hunt, Hooked on Fishing, Day on the Water/Canoeing and Kayaking, Fire and Safety Day, Meet the UNL Husker Athletes and Moms Day event.
- Omaha All Stars Basketball League – ages 5 and up enjoy a leisure recreational basketball opportunity that lasts for six weeks in the spring and fall of each year.
- Community Activities – the P2P program often joins in with other support groups and disability programs in co-sponsoring events held in the community. We often receive reduced price or free tickets for a variety of events and attend them together.
How can I become a Supporting Parent and help new families?
We find that parents who wish to be supporting parents often entered the program as newly referred parents. Without realizing it, their training actually begins as they receive support and experience first-hand how much they are helped by their supporting parent. Parents commonly say that the support they received was so helpful that they want to give back to the program and to new parents who have questions and need help. P2P Omaha will recruit veteran parents from their own program and make contact with disability professionals who then recommend specific parents to become supporting parents. Parents who are interested in becoming a support parent can also contact the program to ask about training.
What characteristics make an excellent supporting parent?
Parents who make excellent supporting parents are those who view their child as a valuable person and accept their child’s strengths and weaknesses while having realistic expectations for them. They have successfully worked through the emotional upheaval surrounding the birth or diagnosis of their own child and want to help others do the same. These parents also demonstrate an ability to share their own experiences with others and cope well with their own emotional issues, if any arise. They must be non-judgmental and have a concern for others. They can express themselves well, convey a sense of calm reassurance, and be a good listener. Parents must be able to handle confidential information without the need to discuss it with others and have available time to assist another parent or family.
What is the role of a supporting parent?
A supporting parent will usually start out their relationship with a new parent by sharing their own personal story. In turn, as they listen to the new parent tell them what they are experiencing, the support parent often re-experiences and recognizes the feelings that they experienced with their own child and this allows them to empathize with the new parents in a way that no others can. Supporting parents are listeners, providers of information, and a source of encouragement and practical day-to-day information that may be invaluable to a new family who is just starting out. They also understand the common emotional reactions that most parents say they experience when they first find out that their child has special needs. Supporting parents can help the new parents adjust to the news and give them hope for the future.
Call P2P’s staff person, Annie, at 402-346-5220 ext. 23 to get information on any disability related subject. We have a large amount of written information we can mail to you or we can help refer you to the appropriate place to get answers to your questions. The best days to call are Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
Receive The Gazette, a monthly newsletter, in your mail or through email. The Gazette has articles, stories, events and activities listed for each upcoming month of the year.
Join our P2P email distribution list to find out what is going on in the disability community.
Link up with other parents by attending activities and events for group support.
Request a one-on-one match with a supporting parent who can stay in contact with you 24/7 to answer questions and share experiences with you. If you are preparing for an upcoming medical procedure or surgery for your child and want to talk with another parent who has already had the surgery, call Annie.
Link up with Ollie Webb’s PRISM Parent Resource Information and Support Meetings offered once a month during the school year to provide parents with education on a wide variety of disability topics.