Whether it's on the playground, in the car line, or around the water cooler at work, those person-to-person conversations with other moms are an irreplaceable part of raising your own tiny human. Of course, we do a lot of our motherhood shop talk online these days, and that's never more true than when our kids are going through dramatic, life-changing transformations. Whether your child is facing down an illness or navigating their sexual identity, online parenting support is an invaluable resource: Sometimes (another) mom really can make it all better.
Jamie Brockman, a Greenville, South Carolina mom of three children with osteogenesis imperfecta (OI), a genetic bone disorder characterized by fragile bones that break easily, says online support groups have made a real impact on the quality of her children's lives.
"Since OI is a rare disease (it affects fewer than 20,000 people in the U.S. annually), it's unlikely to meet anyone else at random. It also means we have to be our own advocates, as there aren't many health care providers out there who are well-informed," Brockman tells Romper. "The group (that I belong to) has been so helpful, and I've learned so much. My kids now have a higher quality of life."
The fact that Brockman has been able to find deeply meaningful support for OI online is proof positive that there's a group out there for you, regardless of the situation your family is facing. Even positive change can be stressful and hard to manage, but everything can be made easier with the guidance of other, more seasoned moms who have been down the path before you.
Here's a look at just a few online support groups that may be helpful in your journey as a parent. This cross-section will give you an idea of just how many moms, in how many areas of experience, are out there ready to help.
Special Needs Moms For Moms
This site is both a source of support and a clearinghouse of information, and it's created for moms of kids with a wide variety of special needs: Asperger's syndrome, ADHD, cerebral palsy, and sensory processing disorder are just a few of the conditions represented. There are special forums for parents of kids with two disabilities, for single moms, and for information on everything from homeschooling to the use of medical marijuana.
There's truly a support group for every disease out there, no matter how uncommon. Neurofibromatosis is a rare, incurable disease of the nervous system that leads to the formation of tumors in the brain, spinal cord, and nerves. The leading national charity and research organization supporting the disease, the Neurofibromatosis Network, operates a forum for parents of children suffering from Type 1 NF to where fellow parents can provide support, information, and resources.
American Childhood Cancer Organization
Here in the U.S., as in many other countries, cancer is the leading disease-related cause of death, and the majority of children who survive the battle will face chronic health conditions for the remainder of their lives due to the toxicity of the treatments. Parents grappling with the fear and stress that comes along with helping a child deal with the trauma of cancer can check out the forum offered by the American Childhood Cancer Organization to network and bond with other parents also going through this difficult journey.
Tourette Association Of America
If your child suffers from Tourette's Syndrome or a tic disorder, you may be eligible to participate in the parent support groups offered by the Tourette Association of America. The Association has received an overwhelming response to its first-ever offering of an online support forum and notes on its website that it encourages parents to attend its TAA Centers of Excellence if they live within 30 miles. There's an online registration form at the link above.
Mothers Of Sexually Abused Children
Finding the best ways to help your child after he or she has been sexually abused, much less talk about how to deal with your own pain and guilt, is incredibly difficult. Mothers of Sexually Abused Children is a charitable organization that provides a confidential chat group with real-time peer messaging. Dr. Mel Langston, a Licensed Professional Counselor and PhD in Health Psychology and Behavioral Medicine who moderates the site, periodically offers chats.
If you have a child who is on a gender journey, Trans Families has an excellent and welcoming set of discussion forums that cover a wide range of topics. You can get your questions answered and learn how to handle both your and your child's mental health, while also getting advice on practical issues like dealing with gender expression from a very young age, how to frame these issues with siblings and family, and how to talk to teachers.
The effects of lupus are particularly damaging when they appear in children. In fact, the homepage of the Lupus Foundation of America features the story of Amarissa, who talks about how lupus stole her childhood. If your child is battling lupus, you can use the Foundation's LupusConnect forums to connect with other parents and talk about treatment plans and resources for your child's care.
Friedrich's Ataxia Parent's Group
Friedrich's ataxia is a rare genetic disorder that attacks parts of the brain and spinal cord that can cause difficulty with motor functions like walking, a loss of sensation in the extremities, impaired speech, and coronary issues. An active worldwide community of parents has grown up online around this devastating disease to support and inform one another and provide information on resources and planning to ensure that affected children enjoy very full lives.
My Autism Team
The most recent estimates from the CDC show that one in every 59 American children are on the autism spectrum. Parents of these unique children can meet their counterparts online in a supportive, secure community at MyAutismTeam. In addition to chats and forums, you can soak up funny and informative blogs: Recent headlines include "Haircuts and Autism," "The Worst Advice for Parents of Children with Autism," and "The Hardest Part of Autism Isn't Him — It's Other People."
The social hive of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, TypeOneNation has many resources for parents, including a whole forum for networking, support, and questions. Conversations on the parents' forum range from comparisons on the best pumps for all ages of children, to summer programs for children with diabetes, and hit on pleas for help on how to deal with well-intentioned but sugar-pushing grandparents. Free equipment is even offered up online.