How to Join a Peer Support Group:
Initial Family Meeting FAQ
- What is an Initial Family Meeting?
An Initial Family Meeting (often referred to as “IFM”) is an opportunity for a family interested in learning more about the peer support groups offered at the Center to meet with volunteers and staff from our Bereavement or Tender Living Care Program. During this meeting, our staff and volunteers describe how our group programs work, give examples of some of the activities that take place in children’s groups, and explain our confidentiality guidelines. The IFM also gives families the chance to share any information they wish to share regarding the circumstances bringing them to the Center, including the impact of having an ill family member, or their experiences associated with grieving the death of a friend or family member.
2. Is it possible to have an IFM over zoom?
Yes. During the pandemic, we are holding all IFMs (and peer support groups) online via Zoom. When groups resume in person, the Center intends to hold our IFMs in person at our Portland and Sanford locations, depending on which site the family wishes to attend groups.
3. What does an online IFM look like?
To prepare for an online IFM, a family shares one email address with Center staff. The staff member will send the Zoom invitation for a family meeting to this address. We ask that the family member shares this Zoom invitation with all the family members interested in attending, so that at the time of the appointment, each family member can call in on a separate device (e.g., a phone, iPad, laptop, desktop etc) in a separate part of their house to keep their conversation private, if they wish. During the online IFM, each family member will be meeting in a separate breakout room with a volunteer or staff member. If a family does not have enough devices for each family member to have their own, we can either meet with family members in small groups, or schedule multiple appointments via Zoom so that family members can meet one at a time with Center representatives.
4. What should kids be prepared to do in an IFM?
Children are welcome to come as they are! There is no need for children to prepare in advance for an IFM. The Center’s goal is to help every child feel comfortable during our meeting. To accomplish this goal, Center staff/volunteers tailor each child’s interview to meet the child’s age, activity level, and interests. For example, interviews with younger children tend to be shorter and activity focused, like drawing on the Zoom whiteboard or having the children show their favorite toys. If the child is comfortable talking about the death or illness in the family, these conversations tend to be short, perhaps sharing a favorite memory of the person who has died or who has been diagnosed with an illness. For older children, the interview can include a combination of activities and time for the child to talk about how the death or diagnosis in the family has impacted them. Teens typically spend much of the meeting sharing their interests, talking about school, and offering memories of the person who has died or is ill. The meeting with a youth could last from 15 to 45 minutes depending upon how much information the child/teen would like to share.
5. What should parents/caregivers be prepared to do in an IFM?
To prepare for an IFM, it can be helpful for a parent/caregiver to know which devices they have available for the meeting, to have Zoom downloaded on the devices prior to the meeting, and to have identified which room each family member will sit in during the interview. We have found that there can be audio feedback on Zoom if family members attempt to sit in the same room with another person who is also on Zoom on a separate device. Similar to the child’s interview, the Center’s goal is to help each adult feel comfortable during the meeting; each parent/guardian is welcome to share as little or as much as they wish about the circumstances leading them to the Center. Parents/guardians will be asked about their own experiences of grief, and to comment on how their children are responding to the loss or diagnosis. The parent interview typically lasts between 30 minutes to 1 hour.
6. How do I sign my family up for an IFM?
If you or a friend would like to learn more about our Bereavement and Tender Living Care peer support programs, or sign up for an IFM, please reach out. You can email us at email@example.com, or give us a call 207-775-5216. Someone from our program team will be in touch very quickly.