Parent-to-parent support: a critical component of health care services for families

Issues Compr Pediatr Nurs. 1992 Jan-Mar;15(1):55-67. doi: 10.3109/01460869209078240.


Families of children with chronic medical conditions or disabilities face many unique difficulties. It is often necessary for them to assimilate technical medical information and participate in important decisions regarding their children's care before they have had time to adjust to their children's condition. Health care providers are not always available to help parents learn how to function in their dramatically changed roles. To adjust to their new parenting roles and work through feelings of confusion, denial, anxiety, guilt, anger, and depression, parents of children with special health care needs need opportunities to fully vent feelings, and to experience the grieving processes in their own way and at their own pace, in a nonthreatening, nonjudgmental environment. An informal support network is a powerful tool for accomplishing these tasks, for teaching day-to-day coping skills, and for supporting the establishment of new value systems that incorporate families' unique needs. The literature on family support documents ways in which parents of children with special health care needs are particularly qualified to help each other. This article briefly describes the philosophy of parent-to-parent support, its unique contributions in the health care setting, and the ways that health care providers can assist in creating an environment in which parents and professionals can work together more effectively.

MeSH terms

  • Child Health Services / standards*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Chronic Disease*
  • Humans
  • Michigan
  • Parents*
  • Peer Group*
  • Self-Help Groups / organization & administration*