Becoming a SENG Model Parent Group Facilitator

By Cathy Risberg, M.A.

September, 2013

A few months ago, I participated in one of the most significant and helpful training opportunities I have ever experienced — the SENG Model Parent Group (SMPG) Facilitator Training. SENG (which stands for Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted) is an organization made up of parents, educators, mental health professionals, and others that focuses on the social and emotional needs of gifted individuals. It has developed a support group model.

The SMPG facilitator training session, sponsored by the Chicago Gifted Community Center, was one of many that take place around the country each year. It was led by three SMPG facilitator trainers and attended by 15 participants who included parents, teachers, doctors, and consultants.

After introductions, we quickly discovered that we shared some things in common. The participants all wanted to help parents travel the often challenging and perplexing road of raising a gifted child, and we knew in advance that the SENG Model Parent Group was an effective tool to accomplish that goal.

SMPGs are structured to help parents help one another. Over the course of 10 weeks, parents meet for discussions led by two facilitators that focus on topics covered in the book, A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children [reviewed in the March, 2012, issue of 2e: Twice-Exceptional Newsletter.] The main themes:

  • Identification and characteristics
  • Communication
  • Motivation, enthusiasm, and underachievement
  • Discipline and self-management
  • Intensity, perfectionism, and stress
  • Idealism, unhappiness, and depression
  • Acquaintances, friends, and peers
  • Siblings and only children
  • Values, traditions, and uniqueness
  • Complexities of successful parenting.

In addition, the book contains a chapter on children who are twice exceptional, addressing issues such as misdiagnosis, interventions, and solutions. These issues, too, are addressed in SMPG sessions.

As they participate in the ten SMPG sessions, parents learn new skills, become aware of resources, implement effective strategies at home, and form new connections with parents experiencing similar issues and concerns regarding their gifted children. The sessions are carefully designed so that discussions don’t turn into therapy or gripe sessions.

The SMPG facilitator training took place over 1½ days. The first day, a long one, ran from 8:30 am to 8:45 pm. Along with probing the topics covered in each of the 10 weeks of a SMPG, we focused on developing our facilitation skills and practicing them on our fellow participants. Late in the day, following our dinner break, we were given a chance for additional supervised practice with a few small groups of parents from the community who signed up for “A Taste of SENG Model Parent Groups,” held that evening.

The practice time gave us a feel for what it’s like to nurture a discussion with a weekly takeaway of solutions and strategies for parents to use at home. It was challenging as we led our groups to make sure we applied at least some of the many discussion techniques we’d learned throughout the day. Our time with the parents showed us how eager they are to talk about their successes and struggles with their children. It also demonstrated the importance of both co-facilitators having an ability to project a sensitive and caring spirit to help build an emotionally safe environment where sharing and learning can take place.

The second day of training ran from 8:30 am to noon. We started out by debriefing Day 1, and we received both oral and written feedback about our facilitation strengths as well as suggestions for improvement. The three trainers wrapped up the session by addressing these topics:

  • Strategies for organizing a group
  • Resources available from SENG
  • Giving back to SENG to help the organization continue to serve students, parents, and teachers.

As we concluded our training, one participant, a parent named Laura, shared her reactions to the experience. “Completing the certification has taken me full circle,” she said. “I went from a new mother unaware of giftedness; to a parent navigating the waters with SENG’s help; and now to a facilitator listening to folks who are, as I was, new to the parent community of gifted children.”

For me, the SMPG facilitator training truly opened up my eyes and my heart to the absolute importance of connecting parents to one another. It also demonstrated to me the immeasurable value of helping parents discover that there are an abundance of tools and resources available to help them find their way on their tricky and fast-paced — yet ultimately joyous — journey down the superhighway of parenting a gifted child.

Cathy RisbergCathy Risberg consults with parents, students, teachers, and administrators to identify and provide strength-based strategies to help all students, especially those who are gifted and twice-exceptional, reach their full potential. Find more information at her website Minds that Soar, www.mindsthatsoar.com. To learn about how to get a SENG Model Parent Group started in your community, contact Cathy at mindsthatsoar@gmail.com.

To find out how to take part in a SMPG facilitator training session, visit the SENG website: www.sengifted.org/programs/seng-model-parent-groups/smpg-facilitator-training.

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