This exercise works best with two or three Leaders and several Applicants.
The Leader’s role is very different from the non-Leader’s role in the Group. The Leader who is leading a Series Meeting moderates the discussion, keeping it on topic and seeing to it that each mother can be heard. She may fill in gaps when further information is needed or gently provide correct information when misleading or contrary information is shared. If there are other Leaders at a Series Meeting, they help keep the conversation on track and, when appropriate, share their own experiences, perhaps in a different way than they did before they became Leaders. Applicants make the transition from Group members to Group Leaders during their preparation for leadership. The purpose of the following exercise is to practice keeping “self” in the background while focusing on the concerns of the mothers in the Group.
Before starting this exercise, take some time to review relevant sections in the LEADER’S HANDBOOK, chapter I, on helping mothers one-on-one, and chapter II, on leading meeting discussions.
First, using the situations below, role-play how a Leader might respond empathetically by referring to her own *feelings* in a similar situation without mentioning her own actions or choices. The Leaders each do one to model how it’s done. Another participant reads a situation aloud and the Leader responds empathetically, as she would in a meeting. Discuss how the Leader’s response might help the mother on an emotional level (for example, rapport, reassurance, relief). Then the Applicants can each try out one (they might choose one they can relate to personally), receive feedback and try another. It’s okay to choose the same situation someone else chose. Applicants are welcome to ask for coaching if they want help. If any Applicant would rather only observe at this time, she should be free to do so.
Next, using the same situations, role-play how a Leader might draw suggestions from the Group, and how a Leader might offer additional suggestions without referring to her personal experiences. Each Leader takes a turn being “the Leader,” with everyone else being members of the Group. Discuss the role of a Leader who is not leading the meeting. After the Leaders have modeled, each Applicant can take a turn. Afterwards, you might want to talk about how it felt to facilitate rather than participate. If any Applicant feels she would rather only observe at this time, that’s fine.
Use these sample situations, or make up your own:
- Johnny is up and down all night. I never feel rested. I just want a few hours of uninterrupted sleep, that’s all.
- John and I are thinking about bringing our baby to bed with us. It sounds like a great idea.
- Johnny bit me the other day! It was terrible; I slapped him before I knew what I was doing. We both cried.
- Johnny wants to be held a lot, which is fine. I like it. I just get discouraged when I see all the dishes in the sink and John is due home any minute.
- My mother thinks Johnny should be weaned by now. She says she never heard of a kid who can walk and talk still needing to nurse. I don’t like to argue with her.
- Now that Johnny is nearly six months old, his doctor says we should start solid foods. How do I do that? What should I start with?
- Johnny is getting so big. I’m having problems with my back aching after nursing.
- I wish I could lose some weight. I feel like a hippopotamus.
- I’m interested in learning more about home birth. It sounds like the only way to go.