Support From The Social Network

The theme of support from the social network refers to people in the parents’ circle of family and friends who are significant, either because they help them carry out their parenting role, or because they create impediments. After these persons are identified, the each parent’s social network is represented visually on a diagram and serves as the basis for discussion. The parent then describes how some people are helpful and others are sources of stress or conflict. This diagram of the social network allows for a more community-based approach for working with parents that takes advantage of resources available in the parent’s social network.

 

Social Network

 

The question framework offers three successive levels of focus:

  • The first part draws a picture of the parent’s circle of family and friends and explores the structure of his social network.
  • The second part addresses the key persons in the parent’s life and the helpful or inhibitive roles played by the members of his or her social network.
  • The third part explores the parent’s general feeling of solitude.

 

Using the tools

As in the self-care activities theme, the discussion among parents can lead to a sharing of resources. For example, a parent who feels isolated might benefit from the experience and support of another parent in the group who is already integrated into a community organization (family resource centre, community kitchen, food bank, or other). Or again, finding out about the concrete support being provided to one parent may stimulate another parent to seek out similar support in his or her own circle.

From the professionals

«With the social network tool, I was able to discreetly support one mother’s successful reflection on her mother-in-law’s role in her life. She told herself that even though her mother-in-law was frequently a source of tension for her, she was nevertheless a very important grandmother figure for her children».

«Listening to a father talk about the most influential persons in his social network, I had access to information on some very delicate subjects about the role played by the parents in this father’s life».

 

Clinical relevance

  • We know that besides being a key factor in parents’ options for receiving needed assistance, support from the social network serves as a buffer between the daily sources of stress and parents’ capacity to adapt to pressures.
  • Taking the time to explore with parents what their resources are, listening to what they say about them, sharing their positive experiences, understanding their hopes and frustrations, are all essential points of reference for a community-based activity that is able to take advantage of parents’ support network.
  • Carefully identifying all members of the social network makes it possible to vary the sources of support and to share all the complementary strengths that are available both within and outside the family (spouse, relatives, friends, neighbours, support groups, community-based and professional resources).