Parent to Parent Mentor Training


Thank you for your interest in becoming a volunteer Parent to Parent mentor. Your role as a mentor is important in providing emotional support and practical information to other parents in need. This online training is meant as a supplement to the materials that were sent to you through the mail. In addition to the written materials, the training includes video clips from a DVD that we use in our group training sessions, called “Becoming A Supporting Parent: How to Listen, Talk, and Instill Hope in Others.”  The video was produced by the Delta Gamma Center for Children with Visual Impairments. ( The training is organized in chapters, and should take approximately 30-40 minutes to complete. 


Please read through each chapter and watch the associated video content. You will be asked to send an email to the program coordinator confirming your completion of the training and indicating that you are available for a potential match.  If you have any questions about the training materials, don’t hesitate to contact the program coordinator, Donné Allen. Again, thank you for your participation!

This page was last updated on 9/15/16.


Chapter 1: Introduction
Provides a brief overview of training agenda and goals, as well as a short introduction to the Parent to Parent movement.

Click here to begin Chapter 1


Chapter 2: How Parent to Parent Works
Covers the means by which parents are referred to the program and how matches are made.

Click here to begin Chapter 2

Chapter 3: The Adjustment Process
Addresses the four stages of adaptation that parents move through in their journey parenting children with special needs, including the range of feelings and emotions encountered after a disability diagnosis.

Click here to begin Chapter 3

Chapter 4: Role of the Support Parent
Reviews characteristics of an effective support parent, as well as the benefits of the peer support model.

Click here to begin Chapter 4

Chapter 5: Communication & Listening
Offers first contact guidelines for the mentor, suggestions for effective communication, and empathetic listening strategies.

Click here to begin Chapter 5

Chapter 6: Referral and Confidentiality
Provides advice regarding when to refer a parent for additional professional assistance, and a review of confidentiality requirements.

Click here to begin Chapter 6

Chapter 7: Community Resources
Briefly identifies some local resources for families, including links to various web sites.

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Chapter 8: Certification of Completion of Training
Acknowledgement of training completion.

Click here to begin Chapter 8


Chapter 1

Introduction to Parent to Parent Movement and P2P USA


  • Parent to Parent peer mentoring started as a grassroots movement in 1971 by a Nebraska parent of a child with Down Syndrome.
  • Over the next 30+ years, several hundred programs throughout the US were initiated to connect parents of children with disabilities in one-to-one relationships.
  • Parent to Parent USA was created in 2003 to serve as a national umbrella organization for approximately 34 state P2P programs.
  • P2P USA provides support to its members through research, peer mentoring best practices and a national matching listserv.

Training Goals for Volunteer Mentors

  • To gain skills and knowledge that help all of us to become effective mentors;
  • To gain an understanding of SEEC’s P2P program goals and operations; and
  • To obtain information about local, state and national resources for parents and families.


Please view the video below: Becoming A Support  Parent – Introduction


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Chapter 2

How Parent to Parent (P2P) Works


  • SEEC’s P2P connects Montgomery County parents of children with disabilities in meaningful one to one relationships.
  • Parents are referred to the program through social workers/caseworkers, therapists, school personnel, friends/word of mouth, or self-referred based on program outreach and marketing.
  • The P2P coordinator facilitates connections by matching parents with trained support parents who are typically further along in their journey with their child.  Matches are based on a variety of criteria, depending on the needs of the parent, including:
    • Diagnosis
    • Specific experience with educational opportunities or therapies
    • Age of the child
    • Geographic region
    • Common native language
  • Once a match is made, P2P asks that the mentor connect with the parent within 24-48 hours.  Contact can be made via email, phone or in person.  A contact log is provided in your mentor training packet, which you will receive in the mail.

Please view the video below: How Parent to Parent Works


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Chapter 3

The Adjustment Process

The Four Stages of Adaptation

When parents receive a new diagnosis or move into a period of transition with their child, this can lead to significant stress and intense emotions. The four stages of adaptation described below are part of a normal process of adjusting to a diagnosis or transition. By understanding how they work, parents can better predict their emotions and reactions, and not think they are somehow "failing" when they feel a sudden rush of uncomfortable feelings. The stages help us see how we grow through the crises and hard times of our lives. The struggles and challenges of caregiving present sorrows at times, but also opportunities for personal growth and competence.

  • Surviving – What you do to keep going when you are feeling helpless because something out of your control has taken away your child’s equal chance at life.
  • Searching – a time of acting, of moving forward from the reactive stage of surviving.  The awakening of a source of energy, the beginning of a sense of control over your emotions and life, a time for seeking understanding about your child, family and self.
  • Settling In – seeing the world for what it is and seeing yourself for who you are.  It is moving beyond the intense emotions of surviving, feeling less of the sense of urgency of searching and gaining a greater sense of control and balance in daily life.
  • Separating – the normal, necessary process in development, which occurs in tiny steps throughout childhood.  Each step of separation is a step toward independence as your child grows up and away from you and as you let go, one safe step at a time.

The stages described here are not linear, but rather depict a circular, dynamic relationship. A person can move into a new stage and then move back to a prior stage as new challenges are faced. It can be empowering to know that there is not just one way to adapt.



Please view the video below: Adjustment to Diagnosis



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Chapter 4

Role of the Support Parent

While each match will be different and the needs of the parent will help guide the role of the support parent, a match will likely include the following types of support:

  • Listening to the other parent without judgment;
  • Sharing your own experiences;
  • Offering information about community resources; and
  • Helping parents problem solve without telling the parents what they should do.

Please view the video below: Characteristics of A Support Parent


Benefits of Peer Support

Peer support is a critical component of a parent's overall support system, supplementing the support of family members and professionals such as doctors, therapists and educators. The role of the support parent is unique, in that only another parent of a child with a disability can appreciate both the challenges and joys inherent in such a relationship.

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Chapter 5

Communication and Listening


First Contact Guidelines

  • After introducing yourself, ask if it’s a good time to talk.
  • If it’s not a good time, leave your contact information and offer to call them at a better time.
  • Issue an “open door” to talk.
  • Inquire and show interest.
  • Find out what the parent’s expectations are: what is she/he looking for in a support parent.
  • Before ending a conversation, ask if the parent has any questions.
  • Let the parent know that you’ll be contacting them again and that they can contact you, as well.  
  • If you would find it helpful, a contact log is provided for you in your mentor training materials.
  • The program coordinator will check in with you in approximately one week to inquire whether a connection has yet been made and to inquire whether either you or the parent needs any additional assistance or resources.

Please view the video below: Phone scenarios 1
(Phone scenario 1 is an example of an ineffective first call.)



Please view the video below: Phone scenario 2
(Phone scenario 2 is a model of a successful connection.) 


Developing Empathetic Listening Skills
1.    Listen

  • Suspend judgment
  • Try to understand the other’s perspective
  • Ask information questions
  • Give both verbal and non-verbal support

2.    Acknowledge

  • Let the other person know that you’ve heard them and that you appreciate the importance of the issue to them.
  • If it’s true, it’s fine to indicate that you understand how they feel or that you have had/are having similar kinds of feelings.

3.    Respect

  • Never discount another’s experiences or perceptions…they are real for that person.
  • Avoid saying things like “I think you’re making too much of this.”
  • Avoid sarcasm or ridicule.

4.    Appreciate

  • It can be difficult for some people to open up their feelings to a stranger. Say things like “I know it can be hard to discuss these things; I appreciate your making the effort to talk with me about them.”

5.    Follow Through

  • If you’ve offered to send a parent something or promised action on some way, please don’t delay…do it as soon as possible.
  • Check back in a week or so to confirm that the action has been completed and ask how things are going.


Please view the video below: Importance of Effective Listening



Communication Skills: Communication LAADDER
The communication LAADER provides a helpful reminder of strategies to use when engaging with another parent:

L    Language  - verbal and non-verbal
A    Ask Open Questions
A    Affirm Feelings
D    Don’t Change Subject
D    Don’t Interrupt
E    Emotions – keep yours in check
R    Reflect and Respond

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Chapter 6

Referral and Confidentiality


When, Where and How to Refer Out

  • As a parent mentor, you are not expected to be a professional therapist/counselor.  If something is said or occurs that concerns you, feel free to contact the P2P coordinator.
  • The following may indicate that a family or individual needs additional professional assistance:
    • When a person expresses fears that they might hurt themselves or their child;
    • When a person describes actual verbal, physical or sexual abuse;
    • When a person speaks of a pattern of not eating or sleeping well or of uncontrollable emotional outbursts.
  • Trust your instincts, but always feel free to contact the P2P coordinator if you feel uncomfortable about any situation.


Please view the video below: When to Call for Help


Confidentiality Pledge

As a mentor, you must assume that the information shared by families is confidential.  If it is information that needs to be shared, please first obtain the family’s permission.  The only exception to this rule is if the information obtained deals with a dangerous situation for the child or the family.  At that time, please refer out to the P2P coordinator so that additional action can be taken.


Please view the video below: Confidentiality


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Chapter 7

Community Resources



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Certification of Completion of Training



  • You will receive a mentor training packet in the mail, which also includes the book “More than a Mom: Living a Full and Balanced Life When Your Child has Special Needs.”


  • For any additional questions, please don’t hesitate to contact the program coordinator Donné Settles Allen.

Please click here to send an email confirming your completion of this training.

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