Wilton support group helps parents with challenging children

A support group for parents of children with challenging behaviors meets virtually each month. The next meeting is Jan. 4.

A support group for parents of children with challenging behaviors meets virtually each month. The next meeting is Jan. 4.

Susan Rice / Contributed Photo

WILTON — Parents of children with challenging behaviors do not have to go it alone.

For six years, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) — Child Action Network (CAN) has offered a parent support group here. In pre-COVID times, it met monthly at the Gilbert & Bennett Cultural Center. Since March, it has been meeting virtually. The next meeting will be held at 10 a.m. Jan. 4.

The group is led by Vanessa Elias and Beth Schweitzer, trained volunteer facilitators who have had personal experiences raising children with these concerns.

According to Elias, between eight and 12 people routinely participate each month, with children from 8 to 23 years old, many of whom are at different stages of their parenting journeys.

“A lot of the issues now with younger kids are focused around school and behavior,” Elias said. “Having a child who is ‘tricky’ is a stress on a marriage,” she added. “A lot of the time it’s validating a person’s experience and knowing they are not alone.”

She said one family talked about how they would buy ice cream and their child with challenges would eat it all. Another family had the same problem.

“Siblings are impacted. A family is like a mobile,” she said.

“What we focus a lot on is parents getting the support they need for self-care. … You can’t pour from an empty well,” she said. “You have to take care of yourself so you can help others.”

There are what Elias calls “little silos of information” such as Silver Hill Hospital, therapists and school services. “No one is connecting all of them. You don’t know where to go, you don’t know what your options are. There is an opportunity to learn within the group.”

Parents whose children are now doing well also attend, giving hope to parents who are struggling.

The meetings are free and confidential, but participants must call or email Schweitzer or Elias in advance for the Zoom password. For more information and the password, call Schweitzer at 203-984-0123 or email beth44es@gmail.com, or call Elias at 203-970-4130 or eliasvanessa5@gmail.com.