Category Archives: API Support Groups

Featuring API Leaders: An Interview with Thiago Queiroz

By Rita Brhel, API’s publications coordinator, managing editor of Attached Family magazine and an API Leader (Hastings, Nebraska, USA).

API-Logo-20th-themeIn celebration of Attachment Parenting International’s 20th Anniversary, the “Featuring API Leaders” series honors the unique paths that inspired parents to pursue API Leadership:

Father involvement is key to healthy child development, so it is exciting to announce one of our newest API Leaders: Thiago Queiroz of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He is also an excellent writer and has shared his story on API’s APtly Said blog. I am thrilled to bring you more through this interview.

RITA: Thank you, Thiago, for your time. Let’s start by learning how you discovered Attachment Parenting (AP).

THIAGO: My inspiration to start practicing AP with my son was bedsharing. At first, it was the logical thing to do, considering the amount of caring we had to give to him at night. But then I started reading more on this subject and ended up finding about AP and falling in love with it. Now, what inspires me is how it feels so right to have such a strong and deep connection with my son.

RITA: We are all introduced to Attachment Parenting in our own unique way and certain parenting practices will facilitate that close relationship with our children more than others. Cosleeping is one of my favorites, too. Have you encountered any challenges in practicing AP?

thiago_queiroz_1THIAGO: Oh, I found all sorts of problems! To start with, my mother didn’t understand very well what my wife and I were doing. I had to be very firm and confident when explaining to my family why we see AP as a better option for our reality [than the authoritarian parenting style he grew up with].

Besides that, I received some bullying at work for the choices I made in parenting. For my colleagues, I was the “weirdo, organic, hippie” who had a son born at home and who talked about weird things like exclusive breastfeeding, positive discipline, babywearing and things like that.

RITA: Did you seek out Attachment Parenting International out of the need for parent support yourself?

THIAGO: I found API by Googling on AP. I was so excited about AP that I wanted to read more and more, so I Googled it and found API and API’s Eight Principles of Parenting. My first contact with API’s staff was to offer help in translating the Eight Principles of Parenting into my language, Brazilian Portuguese. I thought it was so important to have this information available for people in Brazil that I did the translation.

RITA: And from there, you decided to become an API Leader?

THIAGO: If AP is not exactly something widely known and practiced in the United States, you can imagine how it would be in Brazil, where we can find so little material available in our language and so little local support for parents. I’ve always thought I had to be one of the people who would help make AP known in Brazil, so over an year ago, I created an AP Facebook group in Brazil. I started writing a blog about my experiences as a securely attached father, and then I decided it was time to prepare myself to become an API Leader. It was seeing how people needed and wanted support related to a more sensible and respectful way to raise their kids that inspired me along the way.

RITA: How did you find the API Leader Applicant process?

THIAGO: Oh, boy, the API Leader Applicant process was such a beautiful journey to self-acknowledgement! I absolutely loved being an applicant, as I was learning more not just about AP but about being a better human being. I learned so many things that I’m using in my life now that I could never thank API enough for this opportunity.

RITA: Now that you’re an API Leader, what are your plans of how to support parents locally?

THIAGO: I’m sure I’m going to love the meetings. Being able to share experiences and learn from other realities is a blessing. And on top of that, being able to see the babies that attend the meetings grow up is going to be priceless.

RITA: Are there any challenges of being an API Leader that you anticipate?

THIAGO: I believe the challenges of being an API Leader involve the relationships with other people. The ability to connect to other people, to be empathetic to their feelings, and to be able to hear without judging is the key challenge for anyone who wants to truly help other parents.

RITA: What of API’s resources do you think you’ll find most helpful as an API Leader in supporting other parents?

THIAGO: I have no doubt it will be the repository for the meetings. Meeting ideas and handouts are the sort of resources from API that will help me a lot on my job.

RITA: Thank you, Thiago, for your insights. I have one final question. You have already shared about projects that you started before becoming an API Leader. Has API Leadership inspired additional projects in your life to raise AP awareness?

THIAGO: The way I live and breathe AP inspires me to become a book writer and a positive discipline educator, but only time will tell!

Generation AP: An Interview with Patricia Mackie

By Rita Brhel, API’s publications coordinator, managing editor of Attached Family magazine and an API Leader (Hastings, Nebraska, USA).

In celebration of Attachment Parenting International’s 20th Anniversary, we are pleased to present two series of interviews with API Leaders. This article, the first in the “Generation AP” series, recognizes today’s second-generation Attachment Parenting parents.

Joe Mackie of Naperville“When I experienced major emotions, I would just shut down. My mom would sit with me for hours and wait for me to talk.”   ~Patricia Mackie

Attachment Parenting is no one-size-fits-all child-rearing formula: It’s about having a warm, joyful relationship with our children built on the foundation of sensitive responsiveness, empathy and trust. The need for a secure attachment is instinctually programmed into each of us so that we’re continually striving toward it, whether we recognize it or not. Every parent is on their own parenting journey, and all parents are doing the best they can with the knowledge and support available.

Still, it’s reassuring to know that we’re not the first generation to practice Attachment Parenting (AP).

At the time of this interview, Patricia Mackie of Naperville, Illinois, USA, was just a few weeks away from her third baby’s birth. Patricia is a passionate API volunteer and devotes time to several API projects, including Naperville API in Illinois as an API Leader, API Professionals Program, API Editorial Review Board, API Warmline and Journal of Attachment Parenting. In addition, Patricia is a marriage and family therapist, author of the “Three’s a Crowd” course for expectant and new parents, and founder of the Connecting 1 Day at a Time program for couples with children.

RITA: Thank you, Patricia, for squeezing me into your busy schedule, especially with baby coming soon. Let’s start by reviewing how your parents practiced AP.

PATRICIA: My parents grew into it. They practiced more Attachment Parenting with me than they did with my older sister.For the most part, they followed all of the principles.

We were very involved as a family in cooking and growing our own food.

I have great pictures of my dad with me on his back. Both of my parents wore me as a baby, more so when we were out and about than when we were at home.

They were also sensitive to us during sleep. Mom said I would not sleep in her arms. She would rock and nurse me for hours waiting for me to sleep. Then, she put me in the bassinet and I was out. My sister and I had our own beds, but my parents’ bed was always open for my sister and me.

My mom tried to do as much positive discipline as she could, but she was really young when she had children and didn’t have much support. She went through trial and error as all parents do.

RITA: It sounds like you had a family-centered lifestyle growing up. Please share a couple of your favorite memories.

PATRICIA: I grew up in Alaska, and Mom’s favorite thing to do was to go to this little pull-off on the road, Beluga Point. Sometimes when we were having a hard day or a really good day, or just because, we would go for a drive, get Subway sandwiches, go to Beluga Point, and sit and eat and watch the ocean and the mountain sheep. Sometimes Mom would go with both me and my sister, sometimes it was just me and Mom, but it was a connection point for us.

When I was 4, my parents bought a cabin, and we would go up there every weekend. It was our family time—time with everybody together, to play together, to work together, another connection time.

RITA: It’s important for families to spend time together in a positive environment. How did your parents react when emotions were not so positive? How did they respond to strong emotions in you, such as anger?

PATRICIA: It was an area of growth for my parents, but my mom had a way of knowing what to do.

When I was 7, I ran my bike through a stop sign, and there as a police officer who saw me. I think I scared him as much as he scared me, but he apparently wanted to make an impression and turned on his lights and yelled at me to slow down and watch what I was doing. He scared the daylights out of me! I came home really upset. Mom knew something was going on but didn’t know what, and I wasn’t talking. So she sat down with me and encouraged me to talk about it.

When I experienced major emotions, I would just shut down. My mom would sit with me for hours and wait for me to talk.

RITA: Is this what influenced your career in counseling?

PATRICIA: Growing up, my parents thought I’d end of in one of two careers: either a lawyer, because I was really good at arguing, or a therapist. At school, there was this little hill where I liked to sit. And my friends would come and sit and talk with me when they needed someone to talk to.

It felt so good to talk and be listened to. I grew up learning that when you have a hard time, you talk about it. It’s so simple and yet the very last thing we think about.

When I was a teenager, I had a negative view on life and was difficult to be around. But every day, my mom and I would have afternoon tea. I didn’t have to drink the tea or eat cookies, but I couldn’t get up from the table until I talked about what was going on. If I had a rough day, she helped me to look at the positives and to stop dwelling on the negatives. That was her way of teaching me without making me feel worse.

My mom also encouraged me in a way that she didn’t realize My sister and I had a very hard relationship growing up. We don’t see the world through the same eyes. Mom would threaten us, but never follow through, for us to either stop fighting or she would take us to therapy. I always wanted to go to therapy, because then my sister and I could learn to talk to one another.

Another big influence was my grandmother. She died when I was 12, and this really affected me. We had a very special relationship. It was from her that I grew up with high values for marriage and that you don’t give up on marriage.

RITA: Did you ever feel that the way your parents were raising you was different than how your peers were raised?

PATRICIA: I knew when I was very young that I was very lucky to have the parents I have, though I didn’t know why. I would go to sleepovers at friends’ houses and would be shocked to hear their parents fighting in the next room or when one of the parents would ignore the other parent.

RITA: Hmm, that’s interesting. So did you find it natural to practice AP with your own children?

PATRICIA: I was practicing Attachment Parenting before I knew what it was. To me, there was no other choice.

I remember one visit to the doctor when he asked me if I was going to breastfeed. I said, “Yeah.” And he put down his notebook, turned to me and said that in all his years of practice, not one time did a mother said “yes” that they would breastfeed without a second thought. They all said they would try.

However, positive discipline has been a challenge. My mom did some spanking when I was young, and she made threats. My mom didn’t get into the groove with positive discipline until I was a teen.

All the things that make my daughter a wonderful person also make it hard during discipline, just like I was for my mom. That’s the hardest part of raising her: She’s me.

My son is very different: very laid back, go-with-the-flow. I thought my daughter was an easy baby, and then my son was born and I realized, oh, she was a high-needs baby.

RITA: Many parents are plagued by the desire to be perfect in their parenting. How do you feel about parents who struggle with AP?

PATRICIA: It’s natural to struggle. I don’t think that everything in parenting comes naturally. I think of my sister. She doesn’t have that natural instinct to pick up her babies and snuggle with them. Some people don’t. We all struggle at some points.

RITA: When did you find API and learn that what you’re doing is AP?

PATRICIA: When I needed support because my daughter wouldn’t sleep, I would go online and search the mommy boards looking for answers. I was reading all the horrible stuff that people do to their kids and was thinking, I need to find people who think like I do.

RITA: Now that you have a name for your parenting approach, how do your parents feel about Attachment Parenting?

PATRICIA: Because my sister lives closer to my parents than I do, and she does not practice Attachment Parenting, they are more familiar now with her parenting style than mine. But they are very supportive of me, and we are able to talk about our differences in parenting views.

RITA: And what about your husband—did he come from an AP family, too?

PATRICIA: No, at all. He was an only child, and he had no experience with children or babies whatsoever. But he has always been very much okay with what I do.

It’s hard with his parents. Over the years, though, they’ve grown very curious about Attachment Parenting. They’ve accepted that’s the way we do things, because clearly it’s working.

RITA: Thank you, Patricia, for your insights. One final question: What is a way that others can see the effects of Attachment Parenting?

PATRICIA: All of my daughter’s preschool teachers say they can’t believe how empathic she is. She’s not trying to please anyone. She’s just aware of everyone’s emotions and readily goes to comfort an upset child.

An Ever-Changing Village: The Importance of Parent Support for Military Families

By Kit Jenkins, Master babywearing educator for Babywearing International, Event Liaison for API and a co-founder of The Carrying On Project (

Photo courtesy of The Carrying On Project
Photo courtesy of The Carrying On Project

We are celebrating Attachment Parenting International’s 20th anniversary this year. One of the main reasons people join API groups and stay involved is the sense of community these groups provide. Parents enjoy and come to rely on the parental support of like-minded individuals, who may be going through the same joys and challenges or seeking guidance from those who have been there in the past. While social media has made constant and instantaneous connection easier, there is nothing quite like going to a meeting and interacting with other parents and their children in real time. It is so much more personal than an Internet encounter.

With April being Month of the Military Child, we want to take a moment to talk about how important a sense of community can be to military families and how much of a difference “finding your village” can make. It is not uncommon for military families to move every year or two, and have every child born in a different state or even a different country! As a military spouse myself, one of the first things I do when I find out that we are moving or going somewhere for a lengthy training is look for similar-minded parenting groups. These groups often become our lifeline; they are where we find an extension of our village, which can make transitioning to our new location easier.

However, sometimes it can be hard to break into these groups, since everyone in the group knows each other and has been friends for a while. Especially for families who have recently had their first child, or who have just started to find their groove for leaving the house after a spouse is deployed, the support and comfort to be found in an API group meeting or informal meet-up can make a huge difference in the lives of the parent and children. We know (and love) that everyone practices AP in their own way, but simply having an API group means having  a common thread to help create a safe, still space for a family whose world is constantly in motion.

There are two big move cycles every year in the military, during which many families are moved to new stations, and the summer cycle is coming soon. Having a village to belong to is one of the most vital “survival tactics” of being a military family. You can help ease the transition by making an effort to include military installations and communities in your outreach. If you see parents (military or not) who look like they might benefit from a support system like the one your group has fostered, be the one to reach out and invite them to a meeting. They may not have found you yet, or might not have known exactly what they were looking for. If you are someone who either has their village or is looking to create one, don’t be afraid to say “Hi!” to the new mom with her baby in the sling at the grocery store or the new family at story time. Membership in API is free, but the benefits are priceless.


API of Frederick, Maryland (USA)

By Kelly Shealer, API Leader and Support Group Co-Leader

When did your group form?


When a parent comes to your group, what can he/she expect? What meeting format do you have?

We generally have a round-robin format where all parents can respond to questions or discussion topics. We have a set topic for discussion and some time at the end of the meeting for general questions.

What kind of discussions does your group have? What are some common questions that parents ask?  

Our group tends to end up on the discussion of either how to sleep (and/or the lack of it) and how to navigate personal needs vs. family needs. We as leaders come with a topic and support any of these conversations as needed.

Locally, in Maryland, we have a large contingency of parents who are new to the area and have one child, and who then typically have one or two more children then move away. It is transient here, so we get quite a bit of fluidity in our group. Also, our group has a contingency that spends a good amount of time social networking, and these members appear to get their emotional needs met in this way. The half dozen or so that come regularly to our group more often than not don’t know anyone or have made a friend through API.

Some common questions include: How can I get some sleep or get my child to sleep? How can I spend more quality time with my partner? How do I discipline my child when he/she bites or hits or yells? How can I get more connected to like-minded parents in the area?

 Are children welcome?

Yes. We meet in the community room at a library with plenty of space for children to play.

There is a stigma associated with support groups, as well as to support in general. What would you say to a parent that said he/she didn’t need a support group because those are for “people with problems”?

Our support meetings don’t just focus on problems. We also like to encourage people to share what things have worked for them and to help other parents. It’s also a great place to meet new people and form a community with other moms.

Anything else you’d like to share about the importance of parents attending API Support Groups?

We have a lot of first-time moms or moms who are new to the area and looking for a way to connect with others, and API Support Groups are a great way to meet like-minded parents.



API of Orange County, California (USA)

By Angela Adams, API Leader & Support Group Co-Leader

When did your group form?

August 2008

When a parent comes to your group, what can he/she expect? What meeting format do you have?

When parents come to our group, they can expect open arms and smiles. There are parents with newborns, toddlers, preschoolers, and older children. Even parents who are pregnant with their first will come for support and information. The group is very casual and relaxed.

The meetings are usually started with an introduction by one of the leaders, an explanation about Attachment Parenting, a brief round-robin introduction by the parents (i.e. name, ages of children, what city do you live in, etc.), and then discussion of that month’s topic. There is always time left for open discussion, so families can talk about any questions or concerns they may have.

Of course, no one is obliged to speak. If you’re the silent type who prefers to absorb the information and just be in the environment, please feel free to enjoy the meetings that way. We want everyone to feel comfortable, supported, and at ease. We also have a lending library with books and DVDs available for check-out.

What kind of discussions does your group have? What are some common questions that parents answer?

Some examples of our discussion topics include:

  • Staying Attached at Mealtime
  • A Fresh Look at Discipline
  • Maintaining Balance in Family Life
  • I Love You Rituals
  • Self-Care and Nurturing Yourself
  • Nighttime Parenting
  • AP Beyond Babyhood.

Our open forum is also a popular time. Parents are welcome to discuss any concerns or issues they’re experiencing at that moment in their parenting journey. For example, families want to know how others handle toddler biting and how they make bedtime a smooth transition. If it’s a concern for you, odds are that others are going through or have gone through the same thing!

Are kids welcome?

Children are always welcome to our meetings. There are some toys available for play, and the parents all try to help each other watch and entertain the kids.

There is a stigma associated to support groups as well as support in general. What would you say to a parent who said that they didn’t need a support group because those were for “people with problems”?

A social support system is important for every person. Not all people who attend the meetings have “problems.” Some simply enjoy the fellowship, sharing of experiences, and talking about their parenting journey. When people do have concerns or questions, an API group is a supportive place to work through some of the issues your family might be dealing with. Learning new things, seeing what might work for your family, and talking with others sometimes requires more strength than staying stuck. We support families who reach out and encourage that connection with others. On a simpler side, most everyone enjoys having this time to meet new friends, chat with old ones, and just connect.

Anything else you’d like to share about the importance of parents attending API Support Groups?

All of us benefit from connection. An API Support Group is a place for people to give and receive emotional and practical support. It is a source of information, understanding, and comfort. You are welcome to vent your frustrations and voice your concerns without fear of being criticized. The support group is a respectful and warm environment full of people who are all on this parenting journey. It’s a valuable resource and one we encourage all families to be a part of.

API of Downriver, Michigan (USA)

By Kate Scheller, API Leader & Support Group Co-Leader

When did your group form?

We are excited to say that API of Downriver was formed last October, making this our one-year anniversary!

When a parent comes to your group, what can she/he expect? What meeting format do you have?

When a parent comes to a meeting, he/she can expect a very friendly and laid-back atmosphere. We have an excellent meeting space that holds books, toys, games, puzzles, puppets, etc. for the kids to play with. There is a room helper, and the children are always in view and can choose to play or sit near their parent.

We start with introductions and an icebreaker question, then move into the meeting topic. Our meeting style varies depending on the subject or the group; it’s really go with the flow. If it’s a very small group of just a couple of us, we try to make it more personalized within that given topic. No parent ever has to talk if they are not ready to do so. We really want all parents and child to feel comfortable and relaxed.

What kind of discussions does your group have? What are some common questions that parents answer?

We have all types of discussions. We really try to follow the group’s cues and steer our meeting to their needs and questions. I think the most common questions are about sleeping better, eating better, and behaving better…the 3 Bs! I have heard some really excellent responses from our parents. We seem pretty lucky to have such a great group of parents!

Are kids welcome?

Yes! Kids are encouraged to come, as well as dads! My oldest loves meeting days, because he gets to come play. We really have a great meeting location.

There is a stigma associated to support groups as well as support in general. What would you say to a parent who said that they didn’t need a support group because those were for “people with problems”?

I’d say, you really are missing out! If you asked any one of our members, not one would associate the group as a bunch of parents with problems. I think we all see it as a place to let your hair down, be in company with  who understands you, a place where you can speak freely, ask honest questions, and not be judged. It’s a place to bounce ideas off of other parents, share your knowledge, and gain some of theirs.

Anything else you’d like to share about the importance of parents attending API Support Groups?

If you haven’t yet attended an API meeting, now is the time. Even as a Leader, I still gain so much from our meetings. I think, sometimes, people have a fear of attending a meeting because they feel they aren’t “AP enough,” so if you are sitting out because that’s how you feel, that couldn’t be farther from the truth! There is no API standard. We all practice the principles in our own way; therefore, all of us can offer a unique perspective. At each meeting, we always remind parents to take what can fit and work into their family and leave the rest. I really can’t stress that enough. So what are you waiting for? Get to a meeting!

API of Port Angeles, Washington (USA)

By Naomi Davidson, API Leader & Support Group Leader, API’s Technology Coordinator

Congratulations on your accreditation as an API Leader! How does it feel?

I am very excited! It feels a lot like earning a degree. I went through a long process that required a lot of juggling, time management, and focus–and I finished it! Now I am eager to walk through the doors that this accomplishment has opened up for me.

What API Leader training was like?

There were many books to read: three required and four of my choice. Leader Applicant Liaison Lisa Feiertag sent many questions for me to answer, which came in stages. These questions caused me to do a lot of self-reflection, and the deeper I got in the process, the more I knew I wanted to become a leader. When I came to the role-playing exercise, I felt a bit intimidated, but with the great support of Lisa and a friend who recently became an API Leader, I was able to work through my challenges and successfully accomplish this task. The training overall was enriching and empowered me to feel like I will be a successful leader.

It took me a year and half from when I began the process to the end. However, I took about a nine-month break during this period, toward the end of my pregnancy and during our move to Port Angeles.

What prerequisites are there to becoming a leader?

A leader must agree with API’s Eight Principles of Parenting and the Leader Guidelines, submit an application, provide two recommendations, as well as become an API member and pay an application fee.

Why did you decide to become a leader?

I am extremely passionate about parenting, and I love all children. I want to do whatever I can to help children get their best start in the world. I believe all parents want this, and I believe API has the tools to accomplish it. I feel like my passion for Attachment Parenting and my experiences will help other parents either feel like they are not alone in their “different” form of parenting, or inspire them to listen to their inner voice and become more securely attached parents. I am looking for this support myself, and I believe starting a local group and being the leader will help me find the support I need and help me provide support for others.

What was your inspiration?

My happy children–all six of them–and my childhood. Peggy O’Mara has been my hero ever since I found Mothering Magazine many years ago. If I can help others raise secure, joyful, and empathetic children, I will feel like I have contributed to the positive changes in this world. This is my goal.

What do you look forward to most with leading an API Support Group?

I am new to my community and know very few people. I am very much looking forward to meeting other like-minded parents and being able to provide a positive environment where we can all connect, educate, and support each other.

What kind of format are you planning?

My first meetings will be the conversation style: leading a discussion with a prepared topic and encouraging other parents to share their thoughts. My meeting time is in the evening, so I plan to end the evening with a storytime for the kids. We’ll see how it grows from there.

How do you hope that your group can most benefit local families?

I want them to feel like they are not alone in their parenting journey, that they have a group they can turn to on those days when they run out of rope and need to find more, that they look forward to our times together, and that this time fills their parenting cup, so they can go home and be the best parents they can be. I also want my group to grow to have other events and traditions that will help provide the support needed to maintain happy families, such as a Welcome Baby program, regularly scheduled play dates, and gatherings.

API of Suffolk County, Long Island, New York (USA)

By Jamie Birdsong Nieroda, API Leader & Support Group Co-Leader

When did your group form?

I decided to go through the leadership training shortly after my son (and second-born) came along. We had a challenging adjustment, even following the ideas in Adele Faber’s helpful book Siblings Without Rivalry, and something about having a support group resonated for me. I had attended one support group meeting in New York City (API-NYC) years before and found being able to post questions to their Yahoo! group (like how to handle exclusion in four-year-old girls or naptime with two young children in the home) so helpful. That community was such a conscientious and wise group of women, and I longed for that on Long Island!  Thus began my journey. I completed my training and held my first meeting in March 2008 when my son was just over a half-year old. My first meeting had about six attendees and my last one (September 2012) had 18 attendees. The group has grown in strength each year, and while it has ebbs and flows, it’s always a positive experience for me witnessing parents providing each other support and community!

When a parent comes to your group, what can she/he expect? What meeting format do you have?

Parents can expect a warm welcome as soon as they walk in the door! As we all arrive, we visit with one another and help our children acclimate to the meeting space, which is a library room typically (although we do meet outdoors in the summer at Port Jefferson’s harbor). We always start with an icebreaker question (“What is the most challenging thing going on for you as a parent right now?”  “Share an example of how knowing ‘where your child is’ developmentally helps you respond more compassionately or appropriately to them and their behaviors.”  “What was bedtime like for you as a child, as in what routine did you have (if any), which parent handled bedtime, were you welcomed into a family bed or did you sleep by yourself or with a sibling, etc?”  “What is one way you attempt to feed with love and respect?”).

Beyond that initial icebreaker that gets everyone comfortable, I like to switch things up. Sometimes, we just have an open meeting where people can bring their own meeting topic based on the Eight Principles of API. I’ve been doing that more since our meetings have been drawing so many new mommas (and the occasional father, which is always wonderful)! Sometimes, we divide into breakout groups, particularly when we are over 12 or 14 attendees (or have a high ratio of older children), and I provide a point of discussion or give a behavioral scenario for parents to discuss different gentle discipline approaches. Often, we have a round robin where everyone gets to expound on the principle we are covering or offer feedback to others. I want everyone to have time to share, to ask questions, and to feel like they’ve gotten some answers or at least discovered that others are experiencing the same questions. I want parents to leave with new like-minded friends. No one ever has to speak; responding is not required. A lot can be gained by listening as well! Everyone tends to want to share though, because there is such power in coming to a meeting where you feel heard and understood. While a meeting can feel therapeutic or healing, we are really parents (and other caregivers) sharing with a community. It could just as easily happen around someone’s kitchen table, though we wouldn’t all fit! At the end of the meeting, we often have a Circle Time for the children where I or another mother leads seasonally appropriate songs and fingerplays. It’s a nice way to re-connect with the children and to bring the energy level back down as we break up and disperse. We stay in touch between meetings through a Yahoo! and Facebook group to continue the conversations: Much that happens in our parenting lives can’t wait a month to get feedback!

Besides our regular meetings, we love to have supplementary meetings every few months to discuss Attachment Parenting-related books.

What kind of discussions does your group have? What are some common questions that parents answer?

We discuss variations of API’s Eight Principles. A hot button topic for many of us is specific discipline concerns and questions; a lot of great feedback is received by parents on this topic. Sometimes, hearing specific words and examples gives parents the words they need the next time the situation arises. A parent recently told me of a situation with her five year old protesting bedtime (possibly having an adjustment to a new sibling coming along). We discussed specific phrases and approaches she might use; the suggestion the parent liked was similar to what she already was saying to her child but different enough that she felt it might be more of a soothing balm for her daughter to hear.

Sleep and bedtime rituals come up a lot, as well as first foods fed, breastfeeding in public, dealing with criticism from family or friends, how to support a firstborn when adding a new baby/sibling to the family, preparing for childbirth, and finding balance with personal and family life. I always leave refreshed and with renewed inspiration. Our meetings are like a large Sharing Circle with a bit of a playdate feel as well and also with a “we’re family” feel: It is so nice to see some of the same women each month over the course of years and to feel that camaraderie and community.

Are kids welcome?

Yes, children are always welcome to API meetings, and at API of Suffolk County’s meetings, it’s more the anomaly that they are not with their parents, but it does happen on occasion. I set out crayons and paper and some wiki sticks that a parent donated. The kids use those to form “sunglasses” or other 3D objects and they also place them on the library walls since they don’t harm the space in any way. We also set up chairs to serve as a “train” or “airplane” and the children make tickets for anyone to ride the train. On occasion, we bring a parachute for parachute play. The meetings have their limitations in that we always need to be aware of what the children are doing and step away if needed. That, too, is part of parenting and a part of attending a support group with children.

There is a stigma associated to support groups as well as support in general. What would you say to a parent who said that they didn’t need a support group because those were for “people with problems”?

I have my Master’s in Social Work and have worked as a Social Worker counseling both foster children and their families, whether biological, foster, or adoptive. I’ve worked in other therapeutic milieus as well, so I understand this concern people might have and the stigma associated with attending a support group. However, it’s almost hard for me to wrap my mind around that perception, because I view these meetings more as simply community, a parenting community, like a large potluck or Women’s Circle but with a group of mothers, fathers, caregivers, aunts, whomever shows up! It’s like meeting with a bunch of your friends one morning a month to share about your life and to leave inspired! Really, who doesn’t need to discuss parenting with people who understand, who aspire to the same principles (though how it unfolds may look very different, which is part of the beauty of it!)?  To someone uncertain about attending, I would try to listen to their fears and empathize with their concerns while also providing some perspective about how relaxed and normal these meetings are!

I’d like to share here something I noticed recently at our September meeting: I looked over to see one mother wearing another momma’s child in an Ergo carrier, as the child slept contentedly. This image speaks to the community we’ve built and the relationships that have grown between API of Suffolk County’s members. So I’d say get yourself to an API meeting, wherever you are! The connections you will make are a gift that you (and the receiver) need as a mother or father doing the work of parenting. And the eighth principle of parenting, Finding Balance in Personal and Family Life, speaks to that!

Anything else you’d like to share about the importance of parents attending API Support Groups?

We have a lot of fun! It’s community at its best, because you are with people who understand you and do not judge. I’ve noticed that, on occasion, a meeting attendee will preface their comments to the group with, “I’m not as AP as you all are, but…” One attendee pointed out how she has uttered those same words in the past and how, when she hears others say it, she finds it so amusing because it is evident, as each woman speaks, that all of API of Suffolk County’s attendees are coming from a respectful and nonjudgmental place, and conscientiously trying to find the answer that “fits” for their family and their unique child that presents him or herself.