You Belong Here. Inside the Solo Parent Community

Our theme this month is community and what better place to start than talking about the community we create in our weekly Solo Parent Society groups.  Life is so full of surprises as single parents, the last thing we may want to do is jump into something unknown with potential strangers and sharing. We hear from so many single parents that they love the idea of Solo Parent Society, but they’re scared to join. And this makes sense! After hurt, you want to guard your heart and it can feel uncomfortable.

We know community is important. It can be very intimidating jumping into something out of our comfort zone. Who will be in the group? Will there be people with ulterior motives?
Today we are taking a glimpse into what happens in our groups and what single parents can expect. When Solo Parent Society first started, our groups met in person in different places across the U.S. When Covid hit, our groups stopped meeting until one of our leaders, single mom, Elizabeth, approached Robert and asked about starting an online group. That was the beginning of a new way of doing things at Solo Parent Society. We now have online groups meeting, seven days a week, attended by single parents from all over the U.S., Canada, New Zealand, Uganda, London and more.  

What’s it like to join a Solo Parent Society group in person?
Elizabeth had heard about Solo Parent Society meeting at a local church. She showed up scared and feeling a lot of shame. She knew she needed the support and hoped to find a place of understanding, but she didn’t know what to expect. When she came in, another single mom noticed she was new and invited her to sit with her and from that point on, Elizabeth continued to attend. Over several months, she found people she could open up to, cry with, and connect at a level she didn’t realize she was possible because everyone there knew what it’s like to be a single parent and had so many shared experiences. There were people there at different stages and from various circumstances but those who had been parenting alone longer offered hope to the newer single parents. Elizabeth found so much healing and comfort there. It got her through some of the most difficult months of her journey.

How Covid pushed us to start groups online
When Covid prevented the group from meeting in person, Elizabeth felt compelled to reach out to Robert and ask about meeting online. And that’s how our online groups started. Being stuck at home with the pandemic brought such overwhelming loneliness, Elizabeth knew other single parents had to be feeling some of that too. Even her married friends were talking about feeling lonely, so she suggested an online social hour, something fun, inviting, and welcoming to single parents.
And that’s how Solo Parent Society launched the very first online groups via Zoom, first on Monday evenings and then Thursdays too. It started without anyone knowing what to expect as a time of simple connection for single parents who had been stuck at home because of the pandemic. It was a way to offer an outlet for single parents during a time of isolation and anxiety when they were managing the load of two parents, caring for their kids, many working from home, while also taking on new tasks related to school.

The online groups quickly took off. Single parents were getting to know each other. Sometimes there would be discussions around a blog, sometimes it would be playing games, and other times it would be popcorn questions and a time of sharing.

How did Solo Parent Society get started in the first place?
After becoming a single dad, Robert Beeson was desperate for community. There wasn’t a resource for single dads, but he did find a local men’s group he could connect with authentically. Finding that place of community was a game changer for him, and he realized that other single parents needed a place like that too. That’s where the vision for Solo Parent Society started. Robert saw the need and there were very few, if any, resources like that for single parents.  
One of the things we hear from single parents is “I don’t know where I belong” and then after joining a group where they feel a sense of belonging, they say, “I found my people.”
What are the Solo Parent Society groups like?
Each month we focus on a theme relevant to single parents like finding peace. Our podcast explores weekly topics like “how to have peace in conflict” or “how to cultivate peace at home.” In our groups, we continue the conversation on these same topics but dive deeper. But before we go into that discussion, our groups start out with a reminder of why we are here:
“We are solo parents committed to the restoration of ourselves and our children by growing together in our spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical health. While our individual stories are unique, ultimately, are here because of one common bond - we are parenting alone. Whether divorced, widowed, or never married, we all belong here no matter how we got here.”
This is the foundation and heart of Solo Parent Society. What started in 2017 as one in-person group meeting at a local church has now become multiple online groups meeting seven days a week, with single parents attending from all over the world, as well as in person groups meeting on military bases and other locations as things open again.

What to expect from a group
Our groups follow a consistent format each week so single parents can know what to expect. We open with introductions, our purpose, we have a time of discussion around the weekly topic, a one-minute time of quiet meditation, open sharing with specific guidelines in place for safety and confidentiality, and then we close with Psalm 23 and prayer.
During introductions we share our name and where we are from. We set the stage for guidelines for safety, confidentiality, and providing a judgment free place for sharing and acceptance. If there are several newcomers, we ask a few popcorn questions to get to know each other like “what’s the latest movie you have watched” or “what three things would you bring if you were stranded on a deserted island?” From there, we go into our meeting format where we cover our purpose, we introduce our meeting topic and provide an opportunity for discussion. Then we have a one-minute time of quiet reflection to just breathe before we go into a time of open sharing. We use guidelines to help prevent crosstalk, to avoid giving advice, and that encourage “I” statements because we are there for ourselves, not to fix anyone. We want people to share their own stories and we emphasize confidentiality. What is shared in the groups, stays in the group. We take prayer requests, end in prayer and reading Psalm 23. Solo meetings last an hour or an hour and a half depending on the group but there are times single parents stay online longer, hanging out and talking.

What if you want to attend but aren’t comfortable sharing?
If you don’t want to share, you don’t have to. There are single parents who attend who only share their names and where they are from generally, and then just listen in. They are engaged, laughing, and listening but they don’t speak up. Others start off by listening only but then engage later as they get more comfortable. There are attendees who show up week after week and remain silent until one day they decide they are ready to share after feeling safe and comfortable. And it’s amazing to see friendships form when people can open up in a place of security and trust.

What about security?
We ask solo parents to introduce themselves and tell where they are from, even if they don’t go on camera. We prefer face to face connection and encourage that but if someone joins and only uses audio, that is okay. We do ask each person to at least use their voice to share who they are and where they are from. That helps us get an idea of who is in each meeting.

How often do groups meet and who can attend?
Groups meet seven days a week and are open to single moms and single dads of all ages and stages. Single parents can join any meeting at any time. Many single parents attend the same group regularly and form deep connections within that one group. Others attend more than one meeting a week to meet more people and find even more support. Game nights happen twice a week and offer a lighthearted sense of fun and social connection. There is no cost, no RSVP, sign up, or registration required for any of our groups. The only requirement is that you are a single parent.

How many people are in a group?
Groups range in size from 8 to 40 single parents. The larger groups start out together but split into smaller groups for discussion or open sharing.
What about those who attend with ulterior motives?
We set the expectation that our groups are for our individual healing and growth and not a place to form romantic connections. We encourage friendships but this is not a forum to seek out other single parents for dating.  
What about the group leaders?
Our group leaders are all single parents (or former single parents, like Robert) so they understand the journey of parenting alone. Every leader starts by attending one of our groups. They share their stories and grow and heal and then decide they want to give back to other single parents and become facilitators. Each group typically has a primary leader and a co-leader who have each been trained how to facilitate, set expectations, follow the group format, and remind members about the guidelines. Leaders also attend bi-weekly leadership meetings for ongoing support and input from the team.
What about our kids during the meetings?
Kids are often in the background as single parents “attend” a group online. It isn’t a surprise to see a child on screen from time to time or needing something from mom or dad throughout the meeting and single parents come as they are. We all understand the complexities of parenting alone and there is so much grace and acceptance because we’ve all “been there” in one way or another.

The beauty of online groups means single parents can attend from anywhere – the car, an office, their living room, wherever! And because there’s a mute button, background noise isn’t an issue for the most part. There’s a tremendous flexibility with online because there’s no need to go anywhere, have childcare, or a commute. Single parents can sign in from their phone or device from virtually anywhere!

The benefits of joining a group
The benefits of joining a group are many! But one of the primary things we hear is the benefit of finding other single parents who understand the journey. Solo Parent Society orchestrates the meetings and provides the framework, but the magic of our groups happens when single moms and single dads find connection and support from each other. Building community is possible online and we see it happening in every single one of our groups. Another benefit is the growth we see in the lives of each single parent. Those who attend regularly gain strength and a sense of purpose. There is something meaningful and important in offering support to others too. God uses our stories to reach and help someone else. There is someone who needs you to share what you’ve been through. Single parents, you have something to give. God will use you to bring hope to others too.

Here’s what some of our Solo parents are saying:
“Becoming involved in SPS was a lifeline.” – Michelle
“I found trusted friends when I didn’t know who I could trust.” – Emily
“My favorite thing about the groups is the connection and relationships I have built over the last three years since I first joined Solo Parent Society.” – Elizabeth

Solo Parent Society was designed by single parents for single parents! We hope you will attend a group and find the support, connection, and community you need. It can feel a bit daunting, but you will find a safe place of acceptance, hope, and support, week after week.  

“Compassion and community seem to be the hallmarks of those who have been brought through a dark night to a new day. “ – Sheila Welsh

This is such a beautiful description of what God is doing in our Solo Parent Society groups.
Single parents, check out one of our groups. Find a complete list with days, times, and links to join online: https://www.soloparentsociety.com/groups. You will be glad you did!

To receive a free SPS Welcome Toolkit with links to groups, info and a free book click - https://soloparentsociety.com/welcome-toolkit

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