What are single parents to do when they earn too much money to qualify for assistance, yet they can barely support themselves and their children? How can they find affordable day care if no family members are nearby to help? What if a parent seeks child support and her partner reacts by suing for custody?
These are some of the topics of discussion at a July meeting of a new single parent support group led by Beckie Howe of Tiffin. A single parent, she felt a need to meet with others in similar situations. So far, the group has attracted a handful of other participants, all of whom have one child.
"We now have about 4-5 members, but would like to grow as all of us see this as something that is needed for the single parents of Seneca County and surrounding areas. We do have one single dad who has been coming to the meetings from the start," Howe said.
The group met twice in June and twice in July.
Initially, the children came along and played together, but Trinity United Church of Christ provided child care for the most recent gathering. With school starting, the August meetings have been set for noon Saturday and Aug. 26, both at Bailiwick's Coffee Co.
"They have been more than welcoming to us," Howe said.
With a degree in criminal justice and forensic psychology, Howe has worked at a residential facility for teen boys. A difficult pregnancy caused her to stop working to care for her son. She and the baby had to return to Tiffin and move in with her mother.
The two-year work gap and a sluggish economy have made it difficult for Howe to find employment, but they have given her time to volunteer with CASA and start the support group.
At the meeting, Howe gave a presentation with written exercises followed by discussion.
First, she asked members of the group to make a list of negative thoughts, people and events.
"Circle any factors you have the power to change," Howe told those attending. "Then write down something specific that you can do to change them."
Each person shared items from their lists and the group discussed them. Some of the issues included emotional abuse, self-criticism, blaming instead of taking responsibility for problems, disturbing the child by arguing, stress at work, minimal family support, difficulty obtaining child support, parental health problems, lack of sleep and children with special needs.
Some of the solutions suggested included avoiding toxic people as much as possible; listening to music, meditating or spending time outdoors to relax; calling a trusted friend; setting realistic expectations for your child, based on his age, health, abilities and temperament; and seeking community programs that can help. If a confrontation develops, walk away, compose yourself and come back. Have a safe place to go, if needed. And try not to be too hard on yourself when difficulties arise.
In another exercise, Howe asked the group to make a list of good things for which they are grateful and leave space between the items. She directed them to take the lists home, cut them into strips of paper and put them in a "positivity jar." To cheer up, pull a slip of paper from the jar and read it as a reminder of something pleasant.
She also spoke about the law of attraction, which suggests utilizing mental and emotional power to put oneself in a positive frame of mind.
"If you think positive thoughts, good things will happen to you," Howe explained. "If you think you're going to have bad luck, you will."
Before concluding the meeting, the group decided to invite a guest to explain the process of securing child support. Howe asked participants to think of other topics for discussion and speakers who would be willing to talk to the group.
Howe also suggested visiting www.spaoa.org, the website for Single Parents Alliance of America.
For more details about the Seneca County support group, send email to email@example.com or call (419) 618-6021.