Raising children is demanding. For parents whose kids have mental illnesses such as borderline personality disorder or schizophrenia, child rearing presents its own set of challenges. The desire for a safe place to share and receive mutual encouragement led Paul and Janette Stalemo of Eastern Hills Community (Christian Reformed) Church in Aurora, Colo., to start Heart Matters, a biweekly support group for parents whose children have mental health issues.
Approximately 12 people attend group meetings. “It is truly a support group. We share resources and experience,” said Paul Stalemo. “We don’t try to fix each other. We love each other and we try to be encouraging.”
The leaders share a short devotional at the meetings and occasionally bring in speakers. However, the purpose of meeting is providing every person the chance to share their daily parenting issues. “Their kids don’t necessarily don’t look like there is something wrong with them,” said Janette Stalemo. “When their kids act out in public, they are judged. They aren’t judged in this group.”
Parents in the group deal with daily behavioral issues that may seem shocking to those who have never walked in their shoes. Marc, a member of the group, said, “This group has allowed us to meet other hurting families as we try to understand and empathize with the hurts and struggles that we all face both emotionally and financially. This church and this group full of grace allows us to show up and just be our broken selves. I thank God for our church family.”
Even though the everyday struggles for these parents can be exhausting, they assure one another they are not alone. Lana, who also attends Heart Matters, said, “I would have been lost had the Lord not provided me with such a wonderful group of people to help me on this difficult journey.”