Life in 2020 might have been a little strange (and, to be honest, we’re not sure that 2021 is looking that much better right now) but we are so proud to say that we carried on with our Family Support Groups during the whole of the year.
Meeting in Buntingford and Royston, the groups combined much-needed social interaction for parents with games, lessons and fun for the children. With weekly meetings in each location, our families were able to take part in stories, games, crafting sessions and scavenger hunts, among other exciting activities.
Reading through the Group reports to create this round-up, a common theme sticks out: the feeling from parents of being isolated and lonely during the lockdown and how important their weekly Group meetings have been to them.
The social isolation caused by the COVID-19 outbreak has had far-reaching effects around the UK and the world.
We have seen much higher levels of loneliness and stress in parents who would normally find some relief in social or educational group settings, such as toddler groups, pre-school classes and baby groups.
“Relationships are one of the most important aspects of our lives,” says the Mental Health Foundation. “People who are more socially connected to family, friends, or their community are happier, physically healthier and live longer, with fewer mental health problems than people who are less well connected.”
Our Family Groups, whether they are held socially distanced in a field or via a computer screen, offer parents the chance to talk with other people who are going through similar stages: potty training toddlers, weaning babies, homeschooling around work hours and all the other aspects of life in 2020.
In order to comply with government guidance, the Group sessions were held outside as often as the weather permitted. Not only did this offer our Families the chance to see each other face to face, but also gave everyone an opportunity to spend some time appreciating the local environment.
The importance of nature in helping us to feel better is incredible: knowing about and appreciating the outdoors is directly linked to improved mental and physical health. Activities at the Groups, such as making nature wands from items gathered on a walk or around the garden, or using sticks and leaves and homemade paint to create a picture, really helped us to connect with the natural world.
Every week at Family Group, we share a story and a song: it’s a great way of bringing the group together after we’ve played or had an adventure and introduces the children (and the parents!) to the pleasures of reading and making music.
We were lucky enough to have local musician Linda Bance come along to one of our sessions to lead a singalong, and some of the Home-Start office team have also joined the groups virtually to take part. Singing releases the “happy hormones” oxytocin and serotonin, reduces stress and, in a group situation, helps to foster a sense of community and belonging.
Linda is the owner and creator of the Mum Sing and Dad Sing CD’s. If you would like to purchase a copy, please click here or on the image below. A portion of the cost price is donated to Home-Start.
Creating a sense of friendship amongst our families is so important: in a world where social interaction is difficult and isolation prevalent, our Groups work hard to provide our families with a safe space to gather together and share their thoughts and experiences, to provide the children with a place to play and learn, and for everyone to start building the firm foundations that will support a happy life.