It’s a social group that is having a positive impact on the mental health and wellbeing of those who take part – and now Point Parent and Toddler Group is getting support itself, with cash from Point and Sandwick Trust.
The community wind farm charity has given £300 to the group, which meets every Friday between 1pm and 3pm during term time in the Garrabost Free Church Hall, and the parents have been sharing their experiences of the difference it has made to their lives.
Co-vice-chair Bethany Finlayson believes the group is having a positive impact as it helps combat that sense of isolation which so many parents of young children can experience.
Bethany, from Garrabost, is mum to Iona, Eliza and Grace, aged six, four and two. She started coming four years ago, after her second daughter was born. Bethany said: “It’s nice to have a local thing that’s just Point. It’s all positive and it’s got toys. It’s just nice for them all to interact before they go to nursery and for us to get to know the parents of our children’s best friends. It’s just a nice group.
“I like it so much because the children have a blast but it feels like you can come, no matter what state you’re in. You can sit in the corner and we’ll bring you coffee!”
Bethany said her children were always happy for her to help set up, so they got extra time to play, and she told how one of the boys who has now gone to school told his mum that he “wouldn’t be going to school on Fridays” – so he could come to the group.
Bethany recalled a conversation she had with a health professional when she was having a routine screening test for post natal depression and the impression that conversation made on her.
She scored normal results – “everything was fine” – but this was double-checked because of where she lived.
She was told that mums from areas such as Point and Back, which were out of town but not too far flung, seemed to be scoring low. They were places that were “so close to town and town provided lots of services” but there were few services in the areas themselves. Bethany said: “They must have been aware because there were a higher number (of mums with post-natal depression) so they were being proactive about it.”
One mum who said the group had made a huge difference to her wellbeing was Elsie Thomson. Elsie, who also lives in Garrabost, is mum to John, two and a half, and Thomas, seven months, as well as to 14-year-old Stephen, whom she is home schooling. Elsie said: “This is my social life – this and Tesco… It’s great. I started coming here in August 2017 with John when he was a year and three months.”
She remembered how she had felt beforehand. “I had stopped working and didn’t really know anybody here apart from people I was working with. I was so isolated and, being a stay-at-home mum for over a year, I didn’t really know anybody.”
Elsie remembers crying to a neighbour, saying “I need to make friends”, and was told “there’s a toddler group…’”. It took her a few weeks to “work up the confidence to come in the door”, but the experience was overwhelmingly positive. “The first time I came I thought, ‘well that was really amazing – everyone is so generous and very welcoming’.”
Elsie knows how isolating it can be to be at home with young children. “You don’t walk about going ‘I’ve got no friends’ but you could get depressed. You feel as if you’re stuck, you’ve got nobody to confide in, to have a cup of tea.”
At the group, though, she has found that everyone is friendly and kind. “Even the ones that I don’t know really well, they would always stop and listen and be there for you if you needed them. I’ve got no issues with anyone here. They’re a good bunch.”
Elsie admits being “down within myself because I was so lonely”, particularly because she was away from family in East Kilbride. But she no longer feels like that. “I never get down within myself. I feel we’ve always got something to look forward to, even if it’s just to come here once a week. I look forward to having John play with his friends and myself to have a wee chinwag.”
Reflecting on how she had felt before coming the first time, Elsie said: “If I felt like that, there must be other mums who feel the same way. It’s sad, really.”
She added the women who run the group did a great job. “Everything from the baking to doing the teas and doing all the dishes… if it wasn’t for them, it wouldn't run.
“They’re all absolutely amazing. They’ve got no idea how actually amazing they are.”
The £300 from Point and Sandwick Trust, which general manager Donald John MacSween has promised will be a regular commitment, went towards the costs of the group’s Christmas party.
Catriona Dunn, chair of Point Parent and Toddler Group, welcomed the support. “At the Christmas party we had fathers, mothers and some grandparents. They had a lovely party.”
There are 45 children registered in the group now, although they don’t all come along every week. Although the group was initially set up around nine years ago, “it’s in the last couple of years it’s really taken off”, said Catriona, “because we’re meeting regularly”.
She added: “They are a super group of parents and it’s not just the mothers that come along – we’ve got fathers well. Not so many but they do come. There’s nothing else like this meeting in Point. There is no other group like it.”
The group also hold fundraisers, which have included coffee afternoons for Macmillan Cancer Support. They have also organised a Rainbow Raiser for The Leanne Fund and a ‘toddle waddle’ at the beach with balloons for Barnardo’s. Plus, they held a Christmas fair at the Ionad Stoodie community centre, with stalls available for £10.
“We welcome everybody,” said Catriona, and she stressed it was not a religious group although they meet in the church hall.
Anyone who would like to get in touch about the group can do so through their Facebook page, Point Parent and Toddler Group which is at www.facebook.com/Point-Parent-and-Toddler-Group-521202151580226/ – or just come along on Fridays between 1pm and 3pm.
Photographs from the Point Parent and Toddler get-togethers, by Sandie Maciver of SandiePhotos.