Parenting Groups

This module of the Toolkit contains a set of simple, practical and readily-actionable techniques that can help you to either develop a parenting group for your business or to help you support your employees to join an online or and external parenting group hosted by an external organisation.

Why is it important to support working fathers?

What is a parenting group?

The workplace can provide a great opportunity for parents, those caring for children or parents-to-be, engage with one another to discuss concerns, meet people in a similar situation and share information in order to support their parenting experience. While for smaller business it may not be practical to facilitate an organisational parenting group it may be possible to facilitate something online or support and encourage employees to join an externally facilitated parenting group.

A parenting group can meet face to face, or through online forums, and this toolkit offers tips and resources either for setting up a group or helping contributing to one that already exists.

Setting up a parenting group 

Every organisation is different. Employees may be located on a single, central site, or be dispersed. You may have mobile staff or staff working from home. You may only have one or two employees who are parents. The first point to consider when developing a parenting group is the extent to which your business can support and fund the group and what is actually practical for you to do in this area.  Next, it is important to find the most appropriate format – some larger organisations set up parenting groups at a set time and place in an allocated room, others will have “virtual” groups using the staff intranet or other online space. For smaller organisations, the most practical approach is likely to be to encourage staff to join a pre-existing externally supported group but it is still a good idea to think about how you might support them to do this. It might be that your business pays to be a member of a third sector organisation which runs these types of external parenting groups.

Bear in mind that parents come in a range of forms, some of whom may have traditionally felt marginalised in conversations about parenting, so ensure that fathers, single parents, step-parents and LGBT parents are included when talking about parenting groups.  Approaches to facilitating these different approach are outline below. 

Joining an external online parenting group

For many SME’s setting up an organisational parenting group will not be practical. However, you may still see advantages of supporting your employees in this way. If this is the case, you may want to consider joining a pre-existing external parenting group and encouraging your employees to participate in this. Below is some advice about how you might do this.

Setting up a face to face parenting group

If you are a larger SME with staff located in one location you make want to consider setting up a face to face parenting group.

Promoting the parenting group

If you are trying to develop a parent support group that is as inclusive as possible, it is important that this message is conveyed through the organisation, both at the time it is set up, and on an ongoing basis.

Some tips for helping the group along

Sample activities for the parenting group

This can help build interest in a group that is just getting started. An business’ professional contacts may help groups to secure speakers more easily and build positive relationships. For an existing external group, your business may be able to provide an occasional webinar or suggest content for some of the sessions.

Consider parent-specific activities:  discuss what it means to be a new parent; both in life and as a professional and normalise the issues and challenges of new parenthood. It can be particularly useful to have some sessions particularly talking about the experiences of fathers, single parents and adoptive parents as these parents are often not explicitly catered for or supported in other resources available to them.  Tackle assumptions of work-life balance and discuss the boundaries of working as well as expectations from stakeholders. Of course, all parents and their situations are different, so adjust as necessary, and take advice from group members.

Deliver real-life practical information: make company polices explicit – talk about parental leave and flexible-working practices. Showcase a different organisational policy each meeting. Provide employment advice on careers and returning to work, and detail the childcare facilities (e.g. crèche), benefits/vouchers offered by your company

Further organisational interaction: wherever possible, demonstrate that the business’ support for parents extends beyond formal policies. Ensure you keep in touch with the group to maintain a dialogue and feed into the development of any future policies or initiatives. 

Ongoing management of the parenting group

Encourage feedback. This group can enable employees to brainstorm and suggest changes to policies and support to help make your workplace more parent-friendly. These solutions can have a large impact on job satisfaction and greatly reduce turnover and absenteeism.

Design a leaflet of contacts: provide a list of contacts and resources which might be helpful to group members.  This could include information on childcare options and funding, schools, local libraries etc.

Some resources to help the group grow

Module resources

You can find all of the materials mentioned in this and all other modules here.