What groups are available for parents and children?
There is a range of groups available for new parents and children to join to connect with one another. However, a group that suits one new parent may not suit another.
The most common types of groups include:
- mothers' groups
- dads' groups
These groups can be in person or online. Some parents choose to go to a couple of different groups, or go to a group with both parents and children.
What are parenting groups?
Parenting groups are a way to connect with other parents. Essentially, they're a way for a group of parents to get together and support other parents. They are also an opportunity to improve confidence and parenting skills.
There are many benefits of joining a parenting group, especially for first time parents. It's not uncommon to experience feelings of loneliness and isolation in the early weeks and months of caring for a new baby. Connecting with others who are at a similar stage of their life also helps to build community connections with peers and local support networks. Playgroups can also help to support parental wellbeing.
Mothers' groups are often just for mums, who may feel more comfortable in the company of other mums. This can be the case for parents who, for personal, religious or cultural reasons, choose not to be in a group with people of another gender. Many parenting groups are equally inclusive of mothers and fathers. Check in with the organiser if you're unsure.
Fathers' groups are for dads who are interested in being members of a supportive peer-to-peer environment. This can help to improve confidence and parenting skills.
How do I find a parents' group?
Often, new parents are advised of local playgroups by their child health nurse or healthcare provider.
Other common ways of finding a parents' group are by:
- asking other parents
- doing an online search, including a check of parenting websites
- checking what's available in your local area via social media
Many council libraries also run 'rhyme time' activities for young children, as do community centres.
Playgroups are another option, and although they focus on childhood play and learning, they are also a good way for parents to connect with others.
Things to consider when choosing a parenting group
The choice of which parenting group to attend can be limited by availability. You may not have as much choice if you live in a rural or isolated area. Sometimes, parents try a couple of groups before they find one where they feel comfortable and a sense of connection with other parents.
It can take a while to feel comfortable in a parenting group. Some people are more relaxed in a group setting than others, who may take more time to open up.
Some factors that are worthwhile considering when choosing a playgroup are:
- location and travel time
- how accessible it is
- how often the group meets
Many parents bring along morning tea or lunch that is suitable for adults and children to share. In playgroup, activities can be planned, or the children are encouraged to play as they choose.
What if parenting groups aren't right for me?
Parenting groups can offer many benefits, but they aren't right for everyone. This can be because of their 'group' nature and some people feel awkward with strangers. Although sharing similarities can help to 'break the ice', there is no guarantee that parenting groups are right for every parent.
Tips to help build social connections in other ways
There are ways to establish a supportive network other than through joining parenting groups or playgroups. Sometimes it's easier to create connections with one or two other people, or smaller groups. Find someone who you feel comfortable with who has a child or children of a similar age. Invite them over, have a coffee and encourage the children to play.
Look for opportunities to have conversations with other parents when you're out and about with your child. Sometimes the local park is a great place to start up conversations.
Be open to your child's responses to others of the same age. In the same way that adults form connections more easily with some people, children do as well. Friendships formed between children at childcare can be a good starting point for making a 'playdate' at home.
What is a playgroup?
Playgroup is a group organised for children to get together to socialise and play. The location can vary, but generally playgroups are held at a community hall, park or parent's homes. Many parents take turns having playgroup at their home so the organisation is shared.
Playgroups can also be more spontaneous and happen when a group of parents and their children have time to spare and not much else going on.
What are the benefits of a playgroup?
One of the most important benefits of playgroup is that it gives children the opportunity to boost their social and emotional development through play-based learning. Playgroup is also fun and helps children become ready for more formal learning environments. Many parents find that they build lifelong connections with other parents who they initially met when their children were small.
Playgroups are also a good way for parents and children to spend some time away from home and their usual routines. Meeting new people, making friends, and sharing tips and ideas is also very beneficial. Some playgroups are run in community languages. Some are also run for same-sex families, foster carers and kinship carers.
How do I find a playgroup?
You can look for a playgroup by searching for community resources such as health centres, libraries and churches.
Visit playgroupaustralia.org.au to search for a playgroup near you.
You may also find a playgroup by:
- speaking with friends, family and neighbours
- checking social media groups for what's available close to you
- asking your local GP or child health nurse
- many child health centres run new parents' groups which provide an opportunity for connection
Speak to a maternal child health nurse
Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.
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Last reviewed: September 2023