One of my core election commitments was to work towards better services for parents of young children. Last night, with the support of Council, I was elated to move (and have supported) a motion to introduce new parenting support groups to Monash. The groups will be available to all parents of new children, regardless of whether it is their first, second or tenth child, and will focus on addressing social isolation and providing emotional support.
The idea of forming these groups was based on the experience of my wife and I with the birth of our two children. When our first daughter, April, was born, Council’s maternal health nurse organised a new parents group that ran once a week for six weeks. Once the six weeks was up, all of the parents exchanged details and agreed to continue to meet. Even now they still catch up regularly for play dates, and the children are regularly invited to each others birthday parties. This has been invaluable for the social development of April as she has a network of friends her own age which has escalated her rate of social development.
When our second daughter, Zoe, was born, my wife tried to sign up for the same group but was told by maternal health that the group was only for first time mothers in accordance with the funding guidelines set by the Department of Education. As a result, Zoe hasn’t had an opportunity to meet children her own age and really, until she goes to Kinder, will not be given a chance to establish a connection with children her own age. My wife has felt somewhat isolated and left to her own devices as the mother of a newborn and would have loved to have had other mothers to discuss concerns and issues that she has had. We have both been amazed just how much we have forgotten about caring for a newborn after only two years.
The main benefits of these new playgroups include:
a) A sense of community – being part of a group that allows networking and support with professionals and other community members;
b) Access to community services – the program will allow for referral to varied community agencies as required;
c) Community health and well-being – participants will be supported to access relevant services as required for themselves or their children. Speakers will aim to increase parent’s awareness of health and well-being issues; and
d) Education and skills development – speakers and facilitators will support parents to increase their knowledge regarding parenting and child issues, engage and participate in positive interactions with peers and their children.
These new groups will enable ALL parents of newborn children to establish support groups within their local community which will no doubt foster an important environment for young children. They will provide an opportunity where these parents can come and listen to speakers, enjoy play with their baby and other children, while making friends within their local community. The new groups will begin in Term 4, 2017, and I encourage anyone who is a new parent, or knows of a new parent, to either contact Council or myself and we’ll ensure that you receive detailed information.