LIVINGSTON, NJ — Despite regularly meeting since 1981 to help local parents who are experiencing challenges with their children, the Livingston Parent Self-Help Support Group (LPSHSG) is still one of the best-kept secrets in Livingston, and is hoping to reach even more families in not only Livingston, but all of Essex County and surrounding communities as well.

John Crump of LPSHSG attended last week’s township council in order to share more information about the program and reach a broader audience.

“[This group] has been meeting in town every week for the last 35 years,” said Crump. “A bunch of parents who have had issues with their children come each week and help other parents with issues with their children. Typically, the parents who come are coming when their families are in crisis—their child has been arrested, there have been drugs found, the child is withdrawn in the room—some usually severe incident has occurred, and the parents are coming and seeking ways to help their children.”

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The LPSHSG, which meets every Tuesday from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Livingston Senior and Community Center and is free to those in need of its services, is a non-professional, self-help support group facilitated by parents who have experienced problems parenting challenging children. Its goal is “to give parents support and help them to learn new parenting skills so that they can give their child the best chance to lead a healthy, productive and responsible life.”

“We believe that parents can best help their child by changing how they interact with their child,” the flyer for the program states. “We give parents not only the principles and recommendations that we have found successful but, most importantly, the support to help parents make the necessary tough changes.”

According to Crump, hundreds of local families have been helped, but many still don’t know that the program exists.

Parents who benefit from this group are those whose current parenting approach is not working as expected—specifically with a challenging child who might be making destructive and unhealthy choices. The group describes “challenging children” as those who ignore rules and boundaries; lie, steal and manipulate; threaten family members; act in a bullying or violent manner; act entitles; are prone to sudden personality changes; have legal or school problems; display addictive behaviors toward drugs, alcohol or eating; and more.  

The parents who utilize the group’s offerings want to do all they can to preserve their family and help their child, regardless of the child or parents’ ages.

“Parents come and we then try to walk them through a plan of action to deal with their issue,” said Crump. “So it’s a support group in the way that we emotionally support people, but [we are also] a proactive group. We try to come up with a plan for what the parent can do to best help their child.”

In addition to the weekly meetings, LPSHSG also offers a call-list of other parents that can be called in a crisis; non-judgmental support; help in the development of new parenting skills; a plan of action; referrals; and more, as well as complete confidentiality.

The program teaches parents to:

  • Understand that their problems are shared by many others
  • Determine which of their parental behaviors aren’t working
  • Learn new skills for interacting with their child
  • Work together with their parenting partner to create unity between parents
  • Disengage from ineffective battles with their child
  • Express empathy and respect while not enabling destructive behavior
  • Develop a plan to assert parental control of their home and family
  • Set up fair and effective rules with consequences, clarified to children in advance, rather than act punitively.
  • Use available resources such as student assistance counselors, psychologists, and clinical counselors in treatment centers.

“It’s been very effective,” said Crump. “We’ve had hundreds of parents come over the years and a lot of people have been helped. I’m here to just let you know that this resource exists.”

Mayor Ed Meinhardt, who has been the council liaison to the Livingston Municipal Alliance Committee (LMAC) for the last four years, said he appreciates everything the group does for the Livingston community and beyond.

“You’ve helped so many, and you fly way under the radar,” said Meinhardt, who encouraged anyone who knows parents who are having issues dealing with their children to utilize this resource.

There is no cost to attend these weekly meetings. Those in need are welcome to drop by, call ahead or Email LPSHSG@gmail.com.

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