Peer Support Groups
Thanks for your interest in learning more about peer support groups at The Children’s Room. Through our groups, we seek to offer children, teens, and their families an opportunity to find connection and community after the death of an immediate family member. Read on for answers to frequently asked questions about our groups.
Who comes to support groups at The Children’s Room?
Families come to The Children’s Room (TCR) after the death of an immediate family member, typically a parent or a sibling. Children and teenagers (ages 3½ – 18) come with their parent(s) or guardian(s). Family members all attend group on the same afternoon or evening.
When and where do groups meet?
Groups meet during the school year on weeknight evenings (Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday) and Sunday afternoons. Groups meet every other week for an hour and a half. All groups meet at our center, 1210 Massachusetts Ave., in Arlington. *Please note: Families must first come to an orientation and complete a family application before attending a group. More information on this process is below.
Can my family just drop in?
Our groups are not drop-in groups. We will work with your family to match you with an ongoing group that works for you. There’s more information on the application and placement process below.
How can my family and I sign up for a group?
Please call us at 781.641.4741 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll be happy to answer your initial questions about the program, to gather some basic information about your family’s situation, and to schedule you for a family orientation. The orientation will give your family a chance to see our center, meet TCR staff and volunteers, and get a sense of whether TCR is right for your family. You’ll receive a family application at that time. TCR program staff will review the family’s information, schedule preferences and any additional information provided by the family. Families are then assigned to a group that best fits their needs and schedule. Unfortunately, sometimes a family’s schedule or preference may not match the current group availability, and they will be placed on a waitlist.
When do groups begin?
Our program year begins in late September/early October and runs through mid-June. In order to maintain safety and group cohesion among participants, families typically enter groups at two distinct times during the year. New families are placed in groups in either October or February.
How long do families come to groups?
Once a family is placed in a group they are welcome to stay as long as they feel they need to be here. Typically families stay anywhere from 1 – 3 years.
Is there a charge for groups?
There is currently no charge for our groups. We do invite families to make voluntary donations if they are in the position to do so.
What happens in a group at The Children’s Room?
Each “group” of families at The Children’s Room is really several smaller groups for much of each meeting. Family members split into smaller groups by age. Typically, there is a 3½-5 year old group, an elementary aged group, and a tween/teen group. Adults have their own group. Each smaller grouping is facilitated by two or more trained volunteers.
Children and teens typically start with an opening circle in which they share their names and introduce who in their family has died. Often there will be an activity or discussion related to some aspect of the grief experience. Facilitators utilize creative methods including art, music, play, and poetry to encourage grief expression, memory sharing, feelings exploration, and self-care. Verbal sharing is often part of our groups, however it is always optional and we never pressure children to speak.
While your children participate in their group, we offer a simultaneous peer support group for the adults. Facilitated by trained volunteers, this group has multiple aims. In the parent group, we hope to provide a safe space in which parents/caregivers can find peer support around the challenges of parenting grieving children and teens and around their own experiences of grief. The adult group can also be a venue in which to share information about developmental issues among grieving children and teens to parents/caregivers. Facilitators work together with the adult participants to create an environment that is welcoming to the range of perspectives, feelings, needs, and experiences members may bring.
At the end of every group meeting, adults and kids come together to close the group in a big circle. This is a time when the group’s staff coordinator may make announcements, and when we recognize several special occasions including anniversaries of your loved one’s death and birthdays of children and teens in groups. During this time we also welcome new families and volunteers and say goodbye to families or volunteers who are leaving.
Who facilitates the support groups?
All groups are based on a peer support model and facilitated by trained volunteers who are supervised by a professional program staff member. All volunteer facilitators must complete a 35-hour training on theoretical models of grieving, child development, reflective practice, and group facilitation. All volunteers have an entrance interview with a member of our professional staff prior to being placed in a group. Many of our volunteer facilitators work within the mental health, social service or educational field and have been drawn to this work because of their own experiences of loss as a child.
How do I know if a group will be right for me?
Deciding on whether you or your children would benefit from a peer support group is a personal decision that every family must make for themselves. If you are unsure whether or not a group will be right for you, here are a few helpful things to consider:
- It is often helpful to discuss the possibility of starting a group with your family, especially children and teens, to hear what they have to say. Ultimately, you know your child the best and your children, although young, are wise to what they need at this time.
- Families may find it challenging to begin a group immediately following their loss. If you are unsure at this time and your loss was very recent you may consider taking a few weeks or months to think about the decision.
- Coming to a family orientation, where you can learn more about the program, see the space, and get a feel for what a group might look like can be helpful in making decisions about starting a group.