Mom Tania* was new to Health Matters, a weekly health and parenting support group at HomeFront's Family campus. Tania joined specifically to share her concerns about her 18-month-old son James* She said, “I can't leave him for a second or he will eat all the tissues and toilet paper in sight!” She calmly added in her introductory gratitude statement that she was so thankful her only child has a sweet personality, even though he sleeps poorly and was difficult to soothe. But above her mask, her eyes were worried and her forehead furrowed.

I carefully started asking some probing questions to “T,” and the other moms chimed in respectfully: “Was James otherwise healthy, eating and growing? Did his mom have other concerns about his speech, motor development or behavior? What helped? What made things worse?”

Some of the regular participants added, “Tania, I love how you never lose your temper with James. That's so strong and amazing,” and “Tania, you are such a great mom.”

We followed up with questions: “Were James’ behaviors happening only around mom or in other settings like daycare, too?” HomeFront staff had already witnessed and expressed concerns about James to me, confirming Tania’s concerns. They were happy Tania felt comfortable coming to the group to discuss strategies.

Finally, we asked, “What did James’ primary care doctor think? Had he been evaluated by Early Intervention despite COVID?” Tania replied, “Well, Early Intervention saw him over Zoom. But he wouldn’t sit still for the camera. And because I missed the rescheduled visit, they couldn’t tell me anything or do anything for me. I’m so frustrated. This virtual thing just doesn’t work.” Tania was certainly not alone, but she was now making good connections with other mothers.

As one summer staffer observed, the culture of support extends beyond our Wednesday group. He said he noticed “Moms from the group saying hello to one another and continuing to support each other outside of class. I hear them kindly offering other support to other parents, ‘Do you need help with that?’ and ‘I really like how you’re handling that tough situation with your child.’ ” But maybe the best outcome is to hear a mom of three say, “Health Matters is the highlight of my week.”

— Dr. Melissa Bennett

*Names changed for privacy