New Parent Support Group at Presidio of Monterey provides information, social opportunity
Zoe Merritts (right) head of the Presidio of Monterey New Parent Support Program, leads the New Parent Support Group at Army Community Service, Ord Military Community, Calif., June 1. (Photo Credit: Winifred Brown) VIEW ORIGINAL

PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. — New and expectant parents looking for information, social contacts and encouragement can find all three at the Presidio of Monterey’s New Parent Support Group.

Zoe Merritts, group facilitator and head of the installation’s New Parent Support Program, said she provides information about a topic each week and participants also have a chance to participate in an open dialogue about any child-related topic with herself and other parents.

“It’s a really good way for [parents] to talk to each other, have some communication and network with each other,” Merritts said. The group aims to improve the well-being of military families, and ultimately, troop readiness.

The group is open to parents of infants up to the age of 12 months, and expectant parents are welcome as well. It meets at 10:30 a.m. every Wednesday at Army Community Service, Ord Military Community. Information topics usually focus on subjects such as infant nutrition, routines, sleeping and development.

At the June 1 meeting, Merritts, also a registered nurse and mother of two, spoke about separation anxiety and the importance of getting enough vitamin D, but participants spent much of the time talking about a wide variety of child-related topics.

Khala Carter, who attended with her 7-month-old daughter Mila, said she started coming to the group when it started in February and has found it useful because it provides her with a community of other parents in similar situations.

“The information that [Merritts] gives us is great, but it’s also great to connect,” Carter said. “You get out of the house. You talk to people who are going through similar things, and for me, it’s more of that social concept.”

First-time mothers in particular might find themselves comparing their parenting experiences with picture-perfect images on social media and think they are the only ones who struggle at times, Carter said.

“They realize, talking with the other moms, ‘Oh wait, it’s not just me,’” Carter said. “‘This is totally normal.’ You can tap into the other moms’ minds for suggestions and find, ‘I went through the exact same thing. It’s totally normal. Here’s what I did.’”

Mariah St. Jeor, who attended with her 7-month-old son Enoch, said she has also participated since the group began and has found it a fun community where she and her son can find social interaction.

“I think it’s great for the social aspect,” St. Jeor said. “Sometimes you just need to get out and socialize with other people when you’re a new mom — not get cooped up in the house.”

St. Jeor said she has particularly appreciated the information Merritts has provided about military resources but has found it a great place to learn in general about the resources available to new parents.

The New Parent Support Program also provides a “Baby Boot Camp” class that includes a wide range of information about taking care of babies. The next class is June 8 and 9, and registration is required.

For more information or to register for the class, email Zoe Merritts or send a direct message through the Presidio New Parent Support Program Facebook page.

Visit the Army Community Services website to learn more about the programs offered to Soldiers, civilian employees and Families. To find information about services at a specific installation, search for it on the MWR locations directory and click on the corresponding MWR link.