By Ella Rose West
Relocating often means finding new friends, which can be hard as an adult. But our children can provide a great channel to new friendships. Here are some tips on how to forge new friendships at your child's school.
Moving House and Leaving My Friends Behind
My husband and I moved house when I found out I was pregnant with our second child. I have to admit, I dug my heels in a little at first about moving because I was settled where I was; I had my friends nearby, I had my favourite parks to walk in, I knew what time the reduced food would be put out at my local supermarket…I was happy.
I suppose he was right (I feel a little unsettled committing those words to print though – I’m glad the chances of him checking out SocialJane.com are slim to none!). We needed a bigger house for our growing family (and my growing belly and subsequent growing appetite needed a bigger fridge to satisfy its need, and so a bigger kitchen was required….I’m sure you get the idea!), and it made sense with having a second child to move closer to my in-laws…honest it did! And when we married my husband did move to my neck of the woods and commuted to work in the early years of marriage. With me becoming pregnant again, and with the talk of me taking time out after having our second son, I guess, on some—or many—levels it was the right decision.
However, it also meant I would lose a lot of my friends from work who lived in the local area. And I was devastated.
Your Children Are Your Best Ally!
One of my major concerns when we moved was how the heck I was ever going to make friends with new people when I had 2 kids in tow and baby drool/sick/mush unsuspectingly splattered on my shoulder whenever I went out.
Then it hit me that I actually did see a group of people on a regular basis that I had a lot in common with: parents of other young children who were also largely covered in baby mess and perhaps wouldn’t notice the smell emanating from me as they would be used to it themselves.
And so, I steeled myself in my quest to make friends with the unsuspecting parents of kids who attended by eldest son’s school, a quest otherwise known as Operation Loner.
Ignore the Myths of the Evil Cliques
I think, like many of us who have spent time off at home on maternity, I am guilty of putting too much credence in the myths created by shows such as Desperate Housewives. In this TV show, parents form their snobby little cliques and plan to take over the school, bullying and ostracising parents new to the school community. In reality, most parents are so tired from looking after their kids and/or working and/or cleaning, washing and generally tidying their homes they don’t even feel up to planning dinner never mind planning a school-based coup.
Tips On How to Make Friends
1. Smile and act approachable
Even if you’re having a bad day and your tired and grumpy, try to smile and nod at other parents you see regularly when you pick your child up. You don’t need to provide scintillating conversation every time you pick your child up, but smiling automatically makes you more likeable, which may be a useful first impression to bank for the future.
2. Try to Make Small Talk
People love to talk about themselves, mainly because it’s a topic they are confident with; after all, you know more about yourself than you do any other topic on the planet, guaranteed!
So, if you’re ready to make conversation with another parent, give them an opening to tell you a bit about themself. I don’t mean hit them with 20 questions Spanish Inquisition-style, but make a comment or ask a question you feel they’ll be able to talk about. As an example, if they have a toddler with them, comment on how cute/smiley/well-behaved they are, and this will give you an opening to ask about their age, for the parent to throw in a couple of funny anecdotes about their child, and before you know it, you’re having a full blown conversation!
3. Get Involved with School Events
Every school’s PTA is often crying out for fresh blood and would love to have you as a new recruit. This can be a good way to meet other parents (and teachers), and they sometimes organise or put on social events to raise money, such as bingo evenings, cake sales, crafts shows etcetera, which are great because nothing helps build a relationship like a team-building, “we’re all in this together” activity. I often fantasise about suggesting a wine-tasting event or Stella and Dot party as the next fund-raiser for my son’s school, but I am, sadly, yet to have the guts to make it a reality. I’ll keep you posted if I ever do!
4. Invite Your Child’s Friends Over
Believe me, no parent in their right mind is going to turn down the opportunity to get rid of little Sammy for a couple of hours! Inviting their child for dinner gives you an excuse to approach the parent, and then necessitates future conversations with them.
If all goes well (you haven’t had to make that dreaded call to little Sammy’s mother to say you’re “really sorry” but there’s “been an accident” and little Sammy is “fine” but “you need to come to the hospital”), and you think you’ll get on with the parents of your child’s friend, why not suggest an event with all your families collectively? Bowling, a picnic in the park, laser quest, it doesn’t matter, because chances are, they’d love a bit of adult company too.
Does it Work?
I’ve tried all the above techniques, and I wouldn’t recommend them if I didn’t think they’d be useful. Admittedly, there will be set backs when you try to build relationships with others – I thought I was building a pretty good relationship with one mother until there was a playground scrap that put her nose well and truly out of joint, and now she doesn’t look at me – but you’ll have more successes than setbacks.
I am now very proud to admit that I am largely responsible for bringing together a small number of women whose children are in my son’s class, and we all regularly meet up with one another nowadays. In fact, I think we’d be considered one of those cliques that think they rule the school…