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Building a support network and community

Building a Support Network and Community

For many of us, our support networks and community are an important part of our well-being. These are the groups of people we share life with and rely on during tough times. Sometimes your support network is already made up of close friends and family, but other times you may need to build one.

It may feel uncomfortable or unsafe to lean on others. Parents and caregivers may worry about being judged, blamed, or dismissed. That can make them slow to seek support from loved ones or health professionals.

Building these support networks requires us to be vulnerable and open. While not easy, accepting your need for support and rest will help you better care and advocate for your child. Your network and community can support your own well-being and help lighten a heavy load.

Friends & Family

Friends and family are often an important part of your support network and life in general. They can help you through hardships, celebrate special moments, and be good listeners. Each of your friends and family members may play different roles in your life and support you in special ways. When you don’t have much time and energy, it may help to focus on the relationships that are most meaningful to you.

At times, you may feel you don’t have reliable support for you and your family. For example, if you have moved to a new area you may not have a sense of community yet.  Or, if your family relationships are complicated, it might not feel safe to turn to your family for help. It can take some time and effort to make new connections or improve old ones. Try to be kind to yourself along the journey.

Here are a few ideas for how to build a support network and community:

  • Look into local parent groups or family activities. They may be held at public libraries or recreation centres. This can be a great way to connect with families in your area.
  • Connect with a family peer support worker at the Kelty Centre. They can help you find resources, learn more about support and treatment options and offer a listening ear.  
  • Consider online support options. If an in-person community is not available, sometimes you can find online support. Here are a couple of options:
    • The Parent Support Services Society of BC offers self-help groups called support circles that are free, anonymous, and confidential.
    • Information Children offers a range of parent workshops  where you can learn more about children and positive parenting. You also have the opportunity to meet other parents and caregivers and to share concerns about children and family life.

Mental Health Professionals

You might not feel comfortable discussing some experiences with friends or family, and that’s okay! It may be helpful to talk to a psychologist, therapist, or mental health counselor as another way to care for yourself. Here are some things you could do to connect with a professional:  

  • Seek out reliable information about mental health. Do your own research and then decide what would be helpful for you. For example, ask your doctor, talk to a family peer support worker or call a community mental health organizations like the Canadian Mental Health Association: BC Division.
  • Find out what support options are available. There are lots of different options for you and your family. You may use one or more at the same time and your needs may change over time. Check out some of the Treatment and Support options in the Ask Kelty tool
  • Decide what and who is a good fit for you. For example, most therapists will offer a free consult on the phone. That gives you a chance to ask questions about things like their background, what to expect, their fees and availability.

Asking for Help

Being a parent or caregiver is such an important role, but sometimes it can feel like your ONLY role. Asking for help and getting the support you need is good for both your well-being and your child’s, especially when you feel overwhelmed.

It’s important for all parents and caregivers to ask for help. This is true if you are a single parent, co-parent, have a partner, or in a blended family. But, let’s face it, some situations make it uncomfortable or challenging. Remember that, in addition to friends, family and professionals, there may be other sources of support. They may include neighbours, co-workers or even other families at the playground.

There isn’t one “best way” to seek help to support your wellbeing. Honour yourself and your situation while also being aware of what support may be available. Try asking yourself “what would help ease my load right now?"

You could use the 7 elements of self-care as a guide (with examples):

  • mental (Ask a friend for advice about setting boundariesSelf-care wheel with family.)
  • emotional (Book a session with a therapist.)
  • physical (Go for a walk with a friend.)
  • environmental (Ask a family member to pick up your child from school.)
  • spiritual (Ask a friend to pray for you.)
  • recreational or professional (Ask a co-worker to help you on a project.)
  • social (Ask a family member to babysit while you attend book club.)

So often, we don’t want to be a burden to others. We may think we have failed if we can’t do it all. But there is a reason they say “it takes a village to raise a child” – you do not have to do it alone. It can be helpful to remember that we are often more than happy to support someone else. Our community wants to do the same for us. If asking for help is hard for you, discovering compassion can be way of being kinder to ourselves.

A support network and community can empower you as a parent or caregiver whether you are making new connections, asking friends or family for help or meeting with a mental health professional.

Where You Are Podcast

Through real stories, expertise, and practical tips, this podcast helps families promote their mental health and wellness, navigating important topics to meet you where you are in your journey.