Love Collective—Sharing experience and making parenting sweeter

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Modern parenting is both dramatically different from just 10 years ago – and surprisingly unchanged over eons. What constitutes our “local” community has been slowly changing as the internet and other technologies have allowed us to become individual nomads. We regularly transplant ourselves outside of traditional, geographically convenient support networks. Online parenting resources help us discover new sources of support and connect us to those who are farther away—our plug-in devices help keep us “plugged into” important resources. In our physical communities, we glean parenting support at book club, waiting with other parents at our children’s lesson, place of worship, parent-teacher organization or whatever community is convenient for us in our busy, fully scheduled lives.

The links between early childhood experiences and later mental and physical health have long been demonstrated. We’re also clear about the centrality of the parent-child and caregiving relationships as the context of these experiences. We hear less about long-studied impacts that social support has on the well being of parents and caregivers. In the same way that carrots are known to be good for us, social support is also good for us. API has long advocated that more access to inexpensive parenting groups offering high-quality support and information is an easy, meaningful and effective community resource with benefits beyond happier and healthier parents and children. This AP Month we emphasize that connecting and expanding social support can only be even better.

API’s 2018 APM theme results in breaking down still more barriers so that more parents have access to research-based parent support. We’re turning our own resources inside out to create an even bigger knowledge commons. We’ll tap crowdsourcing as a means to create a bigger impact and network of shared knowledge, parent support and practices. Support is available across a wide variety of formats, but most important is that we find effective ways to give and receive support. Feelings of support influence our own well being and access to online and place-based resources are important resources for parents and children. Coming together based on common interests can harness social creativity, collaboration and information sharingAPI’s core mission for more than 24 years.

API is proud to be a longtime parent community organization. We’re excited to announce our restructuring this month and share the ways we’ll be expanding resource access to more parents. Our goal is for every community to have access to tools for new parent groups to support healthy parenting.

There are so many ways of collaborating to establish or find new social connection, support and information. Whether we’re displaced and seeking a second or substitute family or “in-place” and interested in different ways of parenting, we’re all seeking support systems that offer trusted guidance and belonging. Someone to say: “I know just what you’re going through.” That someone may be you. If so, we not only promote connection but invite you to think and act in concert by connecting with other organizations or individuals serving families. By working together, we gain strength for the journey and increase our ability to help and make a difference. With many of us offering that trusted guidance, relying on resources to make it easier so that in coming together—fostering a love collective—we can create a more compassionate world for our children.

API urges local parenting groups to step out and connect with other local entities. Talk, listen, and connect to find possibilities. API will be doing it on a national level too. Get to know each other and look at what you can do in your community to work together for parents and children. Create coalitions, meet periodically—form a love collective—at least meet once. Infuse various local community groups and organizations with access to parenting resources and support. Advocate for universal parenting education and policies to change our systems that work against families and a healthy start. Affiliate with API, use our resources–they are there for you, and watch for all our upcoming announcements. Contribute and share resources, so that together we can create meaningful change for all families.

Selected References
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Dillon Goodson B. Parent support programs and outcomes for children. In: Tremblay RE, Barr RG, Peters
RDeV, eds. Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development [online]. Montreal, Quebec: Centre of
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Ditzena, Beate, Schmidt, Silke, Straussd, Bernhard, Natera, Urs Markus, Ehlerta, Ulrike and Heinrichse, Markus (2008). Adult attachment and social support interact to reduce psychological but not cortisol responses to stress. Journal of Psychosomatic Illness, 64, 479-486.
Falconer, Mary Kay (2006). Mutual Self-Help Parent Support Groups in the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect. The Ounce of Prevention Fund of Florida.
Guest, Eileen Mary, and Keatinge, Diana R. (2009). The Value of New Parent Groups in Child and Family Health Nursing. Journal of Perinatal Education, 18(3), 12–22.
Gunnar, M. R., Hostinar, C. E., Sanchez, M. M., Tottenham, N., & Sullivan, R. M. (2015). Parental buffering of fear and stress neurobiology: Reviewing parallels across rodent, monkey, and human models. Social neuroscience, 10(5), 474-478.
Huang, C. Y., Costeines, J., Kaufman, J. S., & Ayala, C. (2014). Parenting stress, social support, and depression for ethnic minority adolescent mothers: Impact on child development. Journal of child and family studies, 23(2), 255-262.
Inagaki, T. K., Haltom, K. E. B., Suzuki, S., Jevtic, I., Hornstein, E., Bower, J. E., & Eisenberger, N. I. (2016). The neurobiology of giving versus receiving support: the role of stress-related and social reward-related neural activity. Psychosomatic medicine, 78(4), 443.
Kessler, R. C., Mickelson, K. D. and Zhao, S. (1997). Patterns and correlates of self-help group membership in the United States. Social Policy, 27(3), 27-46.
McQuaid, R. J., McInnis, O. A., Paric, A., Al-Yawer, F., Matheson, K., & Anisman, H. (2016). Relations between plasma oxytocin and cortisol: The stress buffering role of social support. Neurobiology of stress, 3, 52-60.
Niela-Vilén, H., Axelin, A., Salanterä, S., & Melender, H. L. (2014). Internet-based peer support for parents: A systematic integrative review. International Journal of Nursing Studies, 51(11), 1524-1537.
Serido, Joyce, Almeida, David M. and Wethington, Elaine (2004). Chronic Stressors and Daily Hassles: Unique and Interactive Relationships with Psychological Distress. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 45(1) Research Library Core, 17-33.
Small, Rhonda, Taft, Angela J., and Brown, Stephanie (2011). The power of social connection and support in improving health: lessons from social support interventions with childbearing women. BMC Public Heatlh, 11, S4.
Stewart-Brown, Sarah L. and Scrader-McMillan, Anita (2011). Parenting for mental health: what does the evidence say we need to do? Report of Workpackage 2 of the DataPrev project. Health Promotion International, Special supplement on mental health promotion, 10-28.
Thompson, R. A. (2015). Social support and child protection: Lessons learned and learning. Child Abuse & Neglect, 41, 19-29.
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Author: Samantha

Attachment Parenting International's Executive Director and Business Management Coordinator, Samantha Gray, works with API's staff, Board of Directors and Business Management Team members to ensure that our organization is continuing to meet the mission and vision of API

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