Do You Have What it Takes to Start an APUK Group?!

Do You Have What it Takes to Start an APUK Group?!

Are you tempted to start your own group but worried you don’t have what it takes to be a facilitator? It’s an exciting prospect and needs some consideration but there are plenty of reasons to go right ahead and start creating a group you love!

I’m pretty busy – will I still be able to run a group effectively?

You can run your group as informally or as formally as suits you! You can even choose how regularly you’d like to get together; weekly, fortnightly or monthly. Some mums hold meetings in their home with some books and slings handy so they don’t even have to leave the house. Some mums run meetings in an outside venue with topic handouts an official lending library for slings and also organise demos and talks – the amount of time, effort and thought required is entirely up to you.

The Positive Discipline Course is specially designed for flexible study time and if you have a co-facilitator there’s a lot of fun to be had in sharing tasks!

I don’t know that I can pay the upfront cost, is it definitely worth my while?

We know a lot of mums are not earning so we offer the option of paying by instalments and we will happily send out the Group Start Up Pack after the first instalment. In terms of value there is nothing that comes close to what this uniquely offers! The value of the training is worth £398 alone!

Once you’ve purchased the Pack it belongs to you (you don’t have to return it) and you could pass it on/ask for a donation for it should you decide to step down or move away.

One of the reasons we encourage people to affiliate with co-facilitators is to split the start up cost – if you don’t have a co-facilitator to begin with you could suggest they make a contribution/donation when they come on board as they will be benefitting from free access to the Positive Discipline course worth £99. Some groups ask local businesses for sponsorship when they are starting out or people might run a fundraiser to generate some initial funds. You are welcome to cover the start up cost retrospectively via donations so the investment isn’t personal but collective instead.

Once you start meeting up, people make a small donation to cover costs (venue/refreshments etc) and there are so many ideas for holding mini-workshops that offer people amazing value and also create some useful income for the group. We have listed all these ideas in the facilitators handbook and our facilitators Facebook group is a great place to exchange ideas and stories.

I’ve never been to a mother & baby group which doesn’t have a specific theme such as singing, swimming etc, what does an APUK group look like?

It’s usually a pretty relaxed affair – lots of mums, sometimes dads, grandparents, friends – and even more little ones! Most groups tend to sit in a circle and there might be a topic up for discussion such as ‘sleep’ or ‘weaning’ or it might be an open discussion for people to share their thoughts. Conversation invariably flows because it’s unusual to have the opportunity to get collective support or to be really heard.

Slings, books, nappies, magazines and leaflets are usually available, as are tea and cake. It’s a place to make friends and to remember you’re part of a local and global parenting community!

I’m thinking of going back to work soon – would it still be possible to run a group if I’m working?

Some mums run a monthly weekend meet up which enables more dads to come along too. After being in the work world during the week it It can be really lovely to connect with other families and share your stories and experiences. For mums who know they will be returning to work at some point, they often find that facilitating a group is a gentle but powerful way of reconnecting with their leadership and organisation skills.

It can also be a great way of showing an employer that while on maternity leave you’ve been inspired to take initiative and create something really positive. For some mums, facilitating a group leads them into working in the arena of child well-being and the group becomes a source of niche expertise.

I’ve got a newborn and a toddler, how can I run a meeting with them to look after?!

A lot of mums think that it would be impossible to run a group with little ones in tow – but it is totally possible – every facilitator does it! Sometimes it works out really easily as all the little ones hang out together or babes-in-arms fall asleep. Sometimes your children will need your undivided attention and you might need to step out of the room for a while – you’ll never be anywhere else where everyone would understand so fully! Just because you are facilitating the group you don’t need to be a role model of perfect parenting – and it’s totally ok to have a bad day – the group is there for you the same way you are there for them.

The amazing thing is that the children are mostly happy to see the adults getting on with their own thing and they find their own way together.

If the group is large and there are lots of children you might want to invite a childminder (or even older home-schooled kids) along to do a craft activity or to be a go-to person to free up a bit of space for the parents. In terms of logistics, keep it as simple as you need to, know your limits, know your child’s limits and work around them.

Where should I hold a meeting, I’m not sure about doing it from home but don’t know many venues either?

We include a big list of potential venues as well as things to look for in a venue in the facilitators handbook and it may be simplest to start out in your own home if that makes practical sense for you. You may find another mum offers her home or you can rotate meetings between a few homes. Alternatively look up where local workshops and classes are happening, speak to your local Sure Start Centre, library, soft play cafe, leisure centre, village hall etc – and don’t forget to ask for a discounted rate because you are affiliated to APUK which is a not-for-profit organisation!

I’m quite new to the area and don’t know how to advertise a group like this?

Most groups run active Facebook pages and make connections with local sling libraries, Nappuccinos and breastfeeding groups to target AP-curious parents. Often the Facebook page grows before actual meetings start so there is an established online community.

Other groups advertise with local posters including maternity units, doctors waiting rooms, or get free publicity in local magazines/radio. Building relationships with local health visitors and midwives also helps. I always found the most powerful advertising tool for parent groups was word of mouth. I remember how only one person came to my first meetings and then it snowballed – I would never have predicted the word would spread so effortlessly! It’s also important to not get caught up in numbers because the group size will always ebb and flow – amazingly, for some people, it makes a difference to them just knowing the group exists even if they never make it to a meeting.

I’ve never facilitated before and I’m a new parent – am I experienced enough to do this?

Becoming a parent is a huge experience in itself and you have all those months of highs and lows to share with people. One of the reasons we call it facilitation is because we want meetings to be ‘easy’ (facil comes from the latin word for ease). With facilitation we are really asking you to create a space and then hold it lightly.

You invite people in and the space then becomes collaborative and mutually supportive. Ideally, you would have a co-facilitator to share those moments when the group does need redirecting.

Some facilitators love to lead and will be really comfortable leading topics and asking questions, others will be quieter and let the group look after itself (which it is invariably more than capable of). If you feel confident you can create an atmosphere which is ‘easy’ and with the support of others, co-facilitators or not, then you have the skills to facilitate a group.

I’m worried I’ll get lots of questions about parenting that I won’t know the answer to!

One of the reasons we now include training for up to 4 co-facilitators per group on the APUK Positive Discipline Course is to equip our facilitators with the knowledge which is most relevant to common meeting topics. Hopefully the course will help you feel more confident but we also don’t expect you to know everything!

It’s ok to say you don’t know the answer to something – these are great opportunities for groups to brainstorm and find ideas collectively.

If a question has been asked of you in private and you don’t know how to reply you might like to offer to post it anonymously on your group’s Facebook page. Alternatively you can seek help in the facilitators Facebook group or ask us to post it on the APUK Facebook page.

Do we need any kinds of insurances and what about DBS checks?

Given that all parents are responsible for their own children at meetings there is no legal basis on which to ask for DBS checks of facilitators. With insurances we always suggest you check that a venue holds it’s own Public Liability Insurance (they usually do but check the exclusion clauses). If holding meetings in your own home check your home insurance policy – buildings insurance and contents insurance often includes public liability.

If you are already trained as a peer supporter in breastfeeding or babywearing you have the competence to offer support as a ‘well-informed friend’ which means you are not insured to ‘solve problems’. For groups with a lot of expertise where the facilitators have consultancy-level training and an active sling library they may want to consider insurance. We can point you in the right direction for this with specific companies who now recognise these skills.

To find out more and apply click here!

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