A recent study commissioned by Playgroup Australia, Relationships Matter*, reported one of the most important benefits for families with babies of regularly participating in a playgroup was it provided them with valuable support and connection during a period of potential social isolation.
“Social isolation is a risk factor for poor mental health outcomes for both parent and child so opportunities to increase a parent’s social connections are critical for a parent’s mental health and their child’s subsequent wellbeing,” Playgroup Queensland CEO Ian Coombe said.
“Particularly in an environment when the experiences and challenges of parenting can be openly shared and social support reciprocated.”
Mr Coombe said a safe and inviting space where parents met up on a regular basis to chat and exchange information was crucial to helping them navigate the parental journey.
“The ability of playgroups to help counter isolation, create social connections and support networks for men and women during this challenging period should not be underestimated,” Mr Coombe said.
Parents interviewed for the research project reported the friendship and support they received at playgroup were significant for helping them to negotiate the demands of parenting a child.
“Playgroup provides parents with an opportunity to interact with other parents who have children of a similar age. It also provides an incentive to get the parents out of the house and to a place where they can share ideas and experiences with other parents in similar situations.”
Mr Coombe pointed out playgroup could also provide the first step in a network of local community services that parents who were feeling vulnerable could tap into such as child health clinics, mental health facilities, baby sitters, schools, kindergartens and welfare groups.
Playgroup Queensland wants all parents to enjoy the benefits of attending a playgroup. The organisation has launched Play Stars, an initiative providing Queensland families with a child under one free membership for 12 months. Play Stars is proudly funded and supported by the Queensland Government. Find out more by visiting: playgroupqueensland.com.au or call 1800 171 882.
*McShane I, Cook K, Sinclair S, Keam G and Fry J. 2016: Relationships Matter: The Social and Economic Benefits of Community Playgroups. A Research Report Prepared for Playgroup Australia. Melbourne: RMIT University.