Isolation and feelings of loneliness can be keenly felt when you are caring for your little one. This can be for a variety of reasons, not least of which is the absence of another adult to talk to.  One solution for some parents are playgroups. These groups can be hard to navigate. Not everyone is necessarily that friendly, there can be a feeling of competitiveness and cliques develop. Some parents have been able to make friends or come with family members or established friendships and they are not that interested in speaking to other parents, you can find yourself in a group of people but feeling more alone than ever. The centre’s staff may come over and chat a little, but they do not really have much time and they move off quite quickly. You might feel brave enough to approach other parents and try to start a conversation, you might get to the point of offering to go for a coffee together, even a play date. However, somehow or other, it just does not quite work out.

These groups are for anyone who wants to come, typically you put your name down and go along. However, there are other types of groups out there, not in all areas, but increasingly so. These groups are closed, meaning that they are in essence, invite only. That sounds excluding, although the essence of these groups is to be inclusive. The reason they are referral only, is because these groups are for when you might be struggling more often than you may wish with looking after your little one. These groups are there to support you and your baby getting to know one another.

Groups such as these are often termed therapeutic playgroups. They run at the same time each week and you will see the same parents and children, the same staff. This gives you the opportunity to get to know each other. Usually, before you go, someone who helps to run the group will meet with you and your little one, to find out a little bit about you and what has been hard. This also means that you already have met someone from the group, so that when you go there is a familiar face. Historically, these groups have been for parents with children aged one to five years old, although some areas have begun to offer them to younger families.

The first group of this kind was set up by Sigmund Freud’s daughter Anna Freud during World War II. She established nurseries and foster care for over 80 children, their parents either having died or absent due to the war effort. She aimed to help the children form relationships with the helpers by providing continuity of care and encouraging mothers to visit as often as they could. In peace time, these groups were adapted to include parents and support both the children and those who cared for them. For many years, the Anna Freud Centre that was based in Hampstead ran such groups. The group in many ways appears much as a stay and play session, but there are important differences. Although called a therapeutic group, you are not required to talk in depth about your difficulties, or to do anything very much different than you may do at the other playgroups you have been to.  The staff hold a common concern for and interest in each family. They will be curious in your child’s play and expressions and try and support at moments of challenge. They will come and talk and help out if needed, which can help to alter these interactions with your child. Change happens gradually, but perceptibly. You will begin to notice that you can think more about your little one, that you can begin to enjoy being with them more.


Related Posts
Transformative Endings in a Therapeutic Group

Endings can provoke a lot of emotion for you both, the ending of each group providing both challenge and also Read more

Why do I find it so hard to ask for help?

Asking for help means admitting both to yourself and to other people that you cannot do this alone. It might Read more

Baby’s secure attachment and why is it so important for your baby’s brain?

The types of experiences your baby has will go a very long way to determining the type of brain that Read more

What is a secure attachment and why is it so important for your baby’s future?

A secure attachment is possibly the single greatest determinant of your child’s future wellbeing. This is because research has shown Read more