I am hitting road blocks with recruitment. What are some of the best ways to reach potential participants?
- Identify and collaborate with your “star” parents (those that have been consistent and enthusiastic participants in your program) to recruit parents at local community events.
- Host an open house at your agency to highlight the benefits of Parenting Journey.
- If you are running a group that is open to the community, recruit where your parents are most likely to be, such as schools and daycares.
- Evaluate your agency’s current marketing efforts and determine what strategies/materials are effective. Use these successful practices to advertise your Parenting Journey groups to potential clients.
- Develop strategic relationships with reliable referral sources — pediatricians, physicians, therapists, and social workers – as they are often looking for additional resources for clients. Make sure to regularly send these contacts materials about your groups in their preferred method (email vs, mail).
- Be proactive. Ask referral sources, current group members, and colleagues for the phone numbers of people who might be interested in Parenting Journey. Call these potential leads and describe Parenting Journey in a personal way that relates to the person whom you are speaking with. Get to know them on that first call. Ask about their kids and what they might like about joining Parenting Journey. These conversations can create a connection and build parents’ motivation to show up for the group.
I’ve started my group, but some members have stopped showing up. How do I get them to stay?
- Meet parents where they are. Take care to address their concerns and needs with attention, interest, and respect and in no time you’ll build the kind of relationship that will keep them returning week after week! Never underestimate the power you have to influence another by your kindness and care – it’s the hallmark of this program.
- Contact. Contact. Contact. Participants will keep coming back when a line of open communication is established and sustained between participants and facilitators. Consider weekly reminder calls/check ins/Google Voice texts about the group to stay in touch.
- While creating the contract in the first session, acknowledge the fact that sometimes showing up to group will be challenging. Ask participants to identify possible barriers and propose solutions to avoid issues with attendance in the future.
- Model your love the curriculum during the sessions This enjoyment is contagious and will inspire participants to want to come back.
- Towards the latter half of the 12 weeks, start to remind participants how close they are to graduation; this is a small but powerful tool because it highlights their ability to accomplish a goal.
- Find a way to obtain funding and/or help with transportation as this is often parents’ biggest barrier to attending groups.
My training experience made it clear that providing a nurturing meal is key part of the Parenting Journey curriculum. How can I ensure that I properly replicate this experience for my families during the group?
- Serve food at the beginning of the group session and make it as special as you are able. Some facilitators set a table with placemats and serve food family-style while others offer a buffet set-up.
- Providing a healthy meal or snack is a key part of creating a nurturing environment and modeling the importance of family meals.
- Make sure food reflects the cultural makeup of your demographic.
- At Parenting Journey we work with local restaurants to provide a full meal for our parents for only $5 per person. Developing relationships with local restaurants is key to an affordable yet delicious meal.
I understand providing childcare is an important means to get parents to buy into the program. How can I make sure to deliver quality childcare on a budget?
- Consider collaborating with a parent or community volunteer to watch children during group.
- Contact local high schools that have early child care centers that you can either use or find childcare workers from.
- Be mindful of going through the same logistical steps with volunteers as you would with a formal hire (CORI etc.)
It’s been a challenge to fit Parenting Journey groups into my organization’s tight budget. What are some creative ways to cut costs while still providing top notch groups?
- Scheduling groups during the day might help offset childcare costs as children are usually in school at that time.
- Just like parents need support from others, your group will be most successful if you have strong support from your organization. Try to advocate for the importance of this program for the community you serve. Your organization could help you identify small grants that would cover the costs of food and childcare so that the group is accessible to all parents.
Timeliness is a major challenge for some of my group members. How can I sensitively address this problem?
- During intakes and recruitment calls relay the expectation that group members stay for the full two hours but also share the idea that extenuating circumstances can and do happen.
- Make timeliness one of the first things put into the group contract. Name why tardiness and leaving early is a problem and impacts everyone’s expereince
- Establish a late policy with your office. Will you allow parents to join the group no matter how late they are, or will there be a cut-off time? Make sure everyone is consistent in enforcing this policy.
- Emphasize the importance of everyone arriving on time in order to get the full benefit of all the activities during session
- Express your gratitude to members who are on time.
- Is the dynamic that everyone in the group is late? Are most people arriving on time? Treat chronic lateness as you would a clinical issue. Check-in with participants to see where they are at emotionally, but come from a place of curiosity as opposed a place of accusation. Always remember to come from a place of compassion.
- Are there logistical issues that facilitators can address? For instance is the starting time realistic for your parents? If the majority of your parents always arrive at 6pm as opposed to the 5:30pm start time, perhaps moving the group to 6pm might be more beneficial.
Some of my group members really love to share – to the point where others don’t have enough time to talk. How can I ensure that everyone gets time to contribute to our activities?
- Address talkers from the start. Encourage them to let the group be heard as well.
- Normalize that talking is going to happen at the beginning, by identifying yourself as a talker as a facilitator (if this applies) while doing the contract.
- Sometimes you have to interrupt talkers in a mindful way, by reflecting what they’ve said to validate them and then transition or pass off to someone else.
- Write down issues that seem important but time doesn’t allow for on a “parking lot” list, so you can circle back to it later.
- Remind all members that the group is based on a structured curriculum that requires that certain activities start and end at particular times, and that you will be interrupting people during activities in order to make sure everyone has a chance to speak from the first session.
- Have the group agree on a gesture that indicates you have to wrap it up.
- Propose the idea of a “wrap it up” gesture to the group and have them agree on a gesture.
What are some helpful ways to foster a positive group dynamic?
- Separate members of a couple. It is okay if there is a large group and it splits into smaller groups with the couple separated between the groups. There are a number of issues with couples in the same group including the possibility that one partner will not feel safe to participate freely or that one member might retaliate against the other for voicing their truths.
- Because of the personal and historical nature of each parent’s story – and the safety created through the contract – the same two trained co-leaders must remain the only people who can lead the group for the duration of the 12 weeks.
- Sometimes group members do forget to bring their special object or a person comes the first time at session two and didn’t know the assignment. It is so important that we don’t shame or judge parents for forgetting. We usually say, “Please think about what you would have brought and describe it to us and why you would have chosen this object.” We have found that often these parents bring the object to show the group the week after.
My group is going well; participants seem to really love the activities and enjoy connecting with each other…but I have a few group members that throw off the flow. How do I handle these difficult participants?
- Don’t avoid the fact the difficult participant is there, but don’t let them dominate the conversation either.
- Acknowledge the difficulty and be compassionate about where they are coming from. Encourage them to express their feelings.
- Don’t be afraid to acknowledge what the core issue is.
- Take some time to ask yourself some questions: Why are they a difficult participant? DCF involved? Are you triggered on some level by their comments/behavior? Is this not right time in their life to be involved in a Parenting Journey Group? What is in this interaction is coming from me and what in this interaction is coming from them? How is the group experiencing this person and what do they need from me to create safety in the group?
- Find a way to get supervision whether it’s with your agency’s clinical director or from a peer so you can troubleshoot with a clinical mind.
- Talk to your co-facilitator about this difficulty and work with them to come up with a strategy around managing the difficult participant.
- Don’t engage the group in discussing this member(s).
- For mandated parents: Create warmth around their personal experience and remind them that their experience/feelings are valid and that their experience is an okay one to have.
- For parents who aren’t emotionally/mentally ready for the group: Talk to them one on one and decide together if it’s best for them to come back to group at another point in time.
- For quiet folks: Ask them strategic follow up questions after they share. Expressing interest in their thoughts and experiences helps coax shy people out of their shells.
- For a side talker: Call them out directly in front of the group. Establish that side conversations are not acceptable in the contract from the beginning.
- For habitual jokers that rarely go deep: Have a one on one conversation with them outside of group to see if their joking is defensive mechanism and how you can help them overcome that instinct to deflect.
Sometimes it’s difficult to get through all of the content in a session. How can I ensure that we stay on track and accomplish all of the agenda items for the session?
- Facilitators should always be thinking about content vs process as they are running the group. Sometimes there are instances where process overpowers content and the activity gets extended. Ask yourself some questions: Are you aware of why you are extending the process? Is it a calculated choice? Sometimes a decision might be made to extend the process for the emotional benefit of everyone. Or is the extension due to off topic conversations? Are you comfortable asserting your role as leader to redirect attention back to the activity’s purpose? The more you ask yourself these questions, the easier it will be for you to find the delicate balance between content and process.
- Prep. Prep. Do the math ahead of time: think about group size while doing prep, and estimate how long each person is going to take, identify which activities are likely to go over and time out the entire session from there. In addition, while doing this, think about your own responses and go first as to set the norm for what the standard length of time for responses should be for participants.
- Write the session time on the board next to the agenda so that the group gets a sense of when activities should end and start.
- Train the group to become more aware of time by making verbal references that time needs to be managed.
- If you aren’t able to get to an activity briefly explain to the group the idea and intention of the activity and just carry on with the next session.
- Have a group member be the timekeeper so that group is accountable around the concept of time.
- Consider doing a “think-pair-share” (partnering up participants and having them talk to each other) if you have a large group that doesn’t leave enough time for individual responses.
- Remember that as a facilitator it’s your job to let everyone have a chance to talk. For more timid facilitators, practice interrupting. It might be helpful to have a line or two to refer to when you need to interrupt someone. Consider “as a facilitator it’s my job to make sure that everyone has a chance to go, so sometimes I will be interrupting people for that purpose, not because what they are saying isn’t valuable or important”. When you use this method, try to check in with that person afterward.
I have some members that have been really resistant to opening up. How can I foster an environment of openness that will encourage them to share?
- The facilitator leading the group should do the intake surveys and meeting with their group members because it creates a stronger bond between them and the participant.
- During the contract, remind members that trust is a key element in the group to being. Then, ask them what concrete actions/behaviors will engender trust from all involved.
- Be as specific as possible while creating the contract and make sure to address what confidentiality means to the group: for example if group members run across each other at the supermarket do they want to acknowledge each other or not?
- The facilitator modeling is an important way of setting the path toward answering questions and participating with more depth.
- Remember that trust is built over time.
- Remember that everyone is entitled to use the pass rule and that we need to respect that each parent will go as deep as they are ready to go, and they are in charge of their own experience.