Gray Power: Starting a grandparent support group

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 8, 2006

If you can&8217;t find a support group nearby, why not start one? It&8217;s not that hard. You can start a support group with only two or three people

First, you have to do a little research. Learn more about support groups by talking to people who are already in a self-help group. Attend a meeting of a support group. Watch what goes on there. Read about groups – online and in books. Ask questions. Borrow ideas.

Next, find a good place to meet. The place you pick should be safe. It should be easy to get to. This could be someone&8217;s home. It could be a church, synagogue, or mosque. It might be a library, community center or hospital. Think about asking a social service agency to sponsor your group. Then you could meet at the agency&8217;s office. And group members could use the agency&8217;s services.

You can&8217;t have a support group without grandparents. But where will you find them? Ask your local school or church to tell you about grandparents who are raising their grandchildren. Get names from social service agencies in town. Put up posters and flyers. Send notices to the local paper. See if you can get a radio station to give your group a free plug. Remember you only need two or three others.

Running a Meeting: Keep the first meeting simple. Start by sharing your story. Invite others to do the same. But don&8217;t force anyone to speak. Make sure members understand that anything discussed in the group cannot be discussed with others outside the group. Make sure that the entire group makes decisions about how the group will be run. Group members need to decide how long each meeting will be. They should have a say on where to meet, and how often. You will want to meet at least once a month. Some members may want to meet more often.

Do what you can to make sure all members of the support group can attend every meeting. Provide child care during meetings. Find a way to give members a ride to meetings if they need one. More members may attend if the group meets in the evening or on weekends. Group members should also decide what the purpose of the group will be. Who will be able to join? What kind of activities will the group sponsor? Will you have programs for children and teens? Does your group want to have guest speakers? What topics should the speakers talk about?

Ask members to take turns planning and running the meetings. Ask them to take turns bringing refreshments, too. Let members exchange telephone numbers so they can talk with one another between meetings. Set up a phone tree so members can help to spread the word to one another when there is an emergency.

A Final Word: Raising a grandchild can be challenging. We all know that. But it also can be rewarding. Your support group can help you meet the challenges you face. Make sure it also helps you celebrate the triumphs and the rewards of what you do