SFOM PEMS Groups: Providing Early Multiples Support
Seattle Families of Multiples (SFOM) is a member of the PEPS Network™. We offer small age-based groups for families with multiples, targeting adjusted age 0-4 months, which are based on the model for parent peer-support groups used by PEPS – The Program for Early Parent Support™. The PEMS Program is offered throughout the year, with a new group starting almost every month, depending on volunteer leader availability Learn more about leading a group!
PEMS Groups meet for 2 hours every week for 8 weeks. Meetings include time for new parents of multiples to share their challenges and joys, learn about babies’ development and learn songs and activities to do with their babies, and to have a facilitated discussion on a parenting topic chosen by the group. Participants are welcome to attend with both parents or just the one. Most families bring all the babies, though you are welcome to attend with one or none. Our goal is for the meeting to work for you. Older siblings will need to have alternate arrangements and may not attend meetings.
2020 PEMS GROUP SCHEDULE
- April 25 – June 20: Saturdays 10am – noon (skipping Memorial Day weekend)
- July 1 – August 19: Wednesdays 10am – noon
- October 4 – November 22: Sundays 3 – 5pm
New Groups forming for future months! (depending on how many families are on the wait list). Schedules will be posted when available. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to the wait list.
Note: As a local member of the PEPS Network™ we are choosing to follow their guidance on meetings during COVID-19. As of June 26, 2020: “Based on careful consideration of data and guidance from the State of Washington and King County Public Health, PEPS Groups starting between now and December 31, 2020 will meet virtually and meetings will be virtual for the entirety of the 12 week sessions. We recognize that public health recommendations may change during the time that the group is meeting, but we believe this is the best approach to provide clarity, consistency, and cohesion for groups and group facilitators.”
COST: The program fee for PEMS Groups is $70 per family, plus the cost of SFOM membership (if you are not already a member), which will provide your family with a connection to our community and access to all the events and benefits SFOM offers. Need-based financial assistance may be available, upon request.
REGISTER: For more information, or if you are interested in registering for a group (including future groups not yet listed in the schedule above), please contact our PEMS coordinators at email@example.com. Please include in your email: your preferred meeting group (or preferred time for a future group) and the name associated with your SFOM membership. There are 8 spaces available per group so sign up soon to reserve your spot.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
PEMS groups are based on PEPS™ groups, which have been bringing Seattle area parents together for 30 years. Here are some common questions that parents sometimes have about this kind of peer-support groups model:
What if I can’t host a group in my home?
It is not mandatory to host a meeting in your home, although we do highly encourage it, if you can make it work, as it helps build connections between families. If you are unsure about hosting, we encourage you to sign up for a hosting date later in the session, so that you can get an idea of what hosting entails. Our groups are informal – people can sit on the floors or stand and rock their babies.
If for any reason you choose not to host in your home, you may host in a public place, such as a library meeting room or community center, or you may choose to offer to help in some other way, such as organizing a group outing, or providing snacks for meetings at other members’ houses.
ALL families are welcome. Groups reflect the wide diversity of the Seattle area, with a range of age, race, religion, income, education, political views, and so on. Groups include adoptive parents, single parents, LGBTQ parents, bi-racial families, both first-time and experienced parents, and more. All are connected by the common experience of parenting new babies.
Which group should I choose?
PEMS groups are offered at different times, mostly based on the availability of the volunteer group facilitators. Some parents debate between attending a daytime weekday group on their own, or attending an evening or weekend group solo or with their partner. (Please note that both day and evening groups may not always be available).
There are upsides and downsides to each option:
- Daytime weekday groups often end up being the at-home parent only (frequently moms). Many participants like being in this environment, and feel like it offers a great opportunity to really explore what it means to be a mom. Many parents find friendships in their group, then go on to do other daytime events together: playdates, walks in the park, or enrolling in other parent-baby programs (yoga, music classes, dance classes, etc.) together. The challenge for day groups: Getting yourself and babies to a group without help. Sometimes partners are disappointed to miss out on the experience. Also, most daytime groups have a mix of moms who stay home, moms who work outside the home part-time, and moms who return to work full-time. This can require more flexibility to accommodate everyone’s schedule if the group wants to continue meeting once the 8-week session formally ends.
- Evening and weekend groups are frequently popular for 2-parent households, however, many parents also attend solo. Many participants report loving the diverse perspectives brought in by both parents, working parents and non-working parents. Evening and weekend groups tend to be more laid back and social, and many families say that they like that the whole family belongs to the group. The challenge for evening and weekend groups: Many babies are fussier in the evening than the daytime, so there may be more crying babies (which is fine! Just something to be aware of). Also, some families find that they’re too tired in the evening to enjoy a group (especially if they’ve been at work all day). Committing to weekend time for 8 weeks is also a consideration.
If you don’t have a time of day preference and are open to the first group available, you can let us know your first choice and also add that you are flexible.
What do parents say about their PEMS Group Experience?
“As a first time mother of multiples, joining a PEMS group is the single most important piece of advice I would give to new/expecting mothers of multiples.”
“Even though it is still a challenge getting out-and-about with twins, being a part of a PEMS group pulls us out of the house. Our gatherings are always the highlight of our week.”
“Meeting other parents with multiples and seeing how their experiences compare to our own. We feel like we are less alone because everyone has tough times with twins.”
“Our leader was excellent. We felt incredibly lucky to have this community.”
How does this group compare to other groups and classes?
In Seattle and the greater Puget Sound area, we are fortunate to have a wide variety of postpartum support groups, and early learning opportunities. It can be hard to sort through all your options to find the support that meets your needs, although there are definitely fewer activities focused specifically for parents of multiples. Because PEMS is provided by SFOM, you can be assured that all of the participants in your group, and in the wider SFOM organization that you will be connected with, understand what it is like to parent more than one baby!
There are also parent-baby classes in specific activities such as gymnastics, swimming, music, and yoga. Many participants have participated in multiple types of classes and programs, and they report that they found value in each type of program. Parents who have participated in a variety of groups report that the things they liked best about their PEPS-based group were:
- Community – seeing the same group of parents each week for several weeks, which allowed them to build strong, supportive relationships. Seeing the same babies week after week helped them to better understand their own babies’ developmental phases.
- Mutual support – sharing experiences and learning from other parents who were at the same stage in their early parenting journey as they were, as well as learning from the leader, who is an experienced parent.
- Predictability – PEPS-based Groups follow the same routine every week: sharing highs and lows, developmental moment/songs, break time, and discussion. This familiar routine is comforting for new parents who may feel like very few things are predictable when there are new babies in the house!
- Variety – Some other programs focus only on baby care, or only on singing songs, or only on emotional development. At a PEPS-based group like PEMS, you get it all! Many Groups also plan informal outings together, such as walks around the lake, Mom’s Nights Out, playdates, or enrolling in other classes as a group.
Your volunteer leader will facilitate the group for eight weeks. Parents are then encouraged to continue meeting on their own for as long as they wish. Some groups choose to stop meeting, some continue for a while but then drift away, but some groups continue to meet for years, supporting each other through preschool, first days of kindergarten, even through the challenges of adolescence and beyond!
We can’t guarantee how long your PEMS group may choose to stay together. However, we will give you tools to help you get started, and you are encouraged to take advantage of the variety of opportunities available through SFOM, such as club events, the Year One program, family meetups, and parents’ nights out. Beyond that, it’s up to you and your fellow group members to make it the experience you want it to be!
Is PEMS a parent education program?
You will learn a great deal about babies and parenting by attending PEMS. However, a majority of the learning comes from sharing information with other parents, observing other parents and their babies, and participating in facilitated discussions that guide you in exploring your own values and priorities for your family.
Every PEMS Group is filled with experts – you, the parents! You’re all learning new things about parenting every day, and your group’s leader(s) can help guide you on this journey. PEMS provides a curriculum for group leaders, which offers an overview of each parenting topic, a summary of vital research information and current trends in parenting advice, and resources for more information. Your leader may also offer additional handouts, or email articles related to the week’s topic. Your leader’s role is not to be an authoritative educator, lecturing you in the “one right way to parent.” Instead, he or she will facilitate the sharing of information amongst group members.
Can I be in a PEMS Group and a PEPS Group?
Yes. Some parents of multiples also choose to be in a PEPS Newborn Group in their neighborhood with other parents with single babies around the same age as their own. To do that, just register for a PEPS Newborn Group here. Note that there is a separate cost to participate in each program.
Yes, please! SFOM is entirely volunteer-run, and we are always looking for experienced parents of multiples to lead upcoming groups. We train leaders to facilitate PEMS group meetings, and all basic materials and resources for the weekly topics are provided to the leaders. Groups meet for a series of 8 weeks (2 hours per week). As a leader, you can pick the meeting schedule that works for you, though weekend groups and weekday evening groups are definitely the most popular for new families of multiples. Groups can be facilitated by a single leader or by co-leaders (who may attend all meetings together, or alternate weeks). Past PEMS Leaders have enjoyed this role because they get to provide a space for new families to learn together during a focused series of weeks. And, participants frequently report that their PEMS group was one of the most pivotal experiences as a new parent. We have many leaders who enjoy it so much that they return to lead another group a few months or a year later, as their schedule allows. Time commitment is about 4 hours per week for 8 weeks (preparing for meetings, travel time, facilitating meetings, and following up after meetings, as needed). Thank you for your interest in supporting these newest SFOM families!
More questions? Ready to register? (Or, interested in leading a group?)
Email to register or with any additional questions you may have about being in a group (or leading a group).