Thursday, August 25, 2011

How To Meet Other Moms

It's Back to School time!  Many of your kids have already started school, while my big boy starts 1st grade on Sept. 7th, and my little one starts preschool the week after.

With new classes come new friends for our kids.  I have a desire to know each of my kid's friends by name, as well as their parents.  This will get even more important as they grow older, and I would really love for our house to be the place that other kids want to come.  In order for that to happen, I have to work hard now to create relationships.  Nobody wants to send their child to a strangers house to play, including me.

By nature I am more of an introvert, so reaching out and making new friends is not always easy for me. In fact, there were days where I wanted to send my husband to drop off and pick up, just so I could have a break from socializing during those times.  When Micah was in preschool, his class size was only 10 children, and the other outgoing moms made it easy for me to get to know them.  As he entered kindergarten, however, his class size went up to 30, and I was daily hearing new kid's names who I didn't know.  By the end of the year I knew every child's name in his class, scheduled playdates throughout the year, and had other moms calling just to say hello.  Again, not easy for an introvert, but I wanted to do it for my son.

Meeting other moms not only creates new friendships, but it is also a way of creating connections that will last throughout the years.  The friendships I made with the moms in Micah's first year of preschool are still strong, and we still get together regularly for playdates, even though our kids go to different schools.  My husband has gotten to know their husbands and we've invited these families to church, to birthday parties, and networked with the businesses they have.

For those of you who might have difficulty reaching out, here are a few things that have worked for me, a fellow introvert:

-Volunteer in the class. Even if it's for 2 hours a week, it makes a difference.  You get to see who your kids friends are, how they interact, and begin to know all the kids by name.  You hear their family stories.  The kids love when you volunteer in the class; I would always have numerous kids come up and hug me and ask when I was coming back.  This way, when you meet the parents, you can say, "I volunteer in the classroom," and that always opens up doors for conversation.

-Arrive at drop off and pick up early.  This is where parents just stand around and wait, a great breeding ground for conversation.  Here are a few conversation starters:
     "Is this your first year at the school?"
     "Do you guys live around here?"
     "Do you know anything about such-and-such event coming up?"
     "How is the year going for your son/daughter?"
     "How does your son/daughter like school so far?"

-If your child has certain playmates at school, meet their parents and ask if you can go to the park after school one day.  Grab some snacks, and head over to the nearest park for even an hour.  We did this numerous times during the school year and I made some great friends during our park time.  It is helpful to offer to meet in a neutral location (at least for the first time), since some people may not feel comfortable entering your home with their child if they barely know you.

-Become a room parent.  Yes, this usually takes some work, so be sure you have the time if you commit to it.  But this is a fantastic way to keep in communication with the other parents and kids.

-If you can't devote the time to being a room parent, ask the teacher for other ways you can help out. Our classroom had a parent in charge of the Scholastic Reading program, and that parent would mail out monthly letters to the parents. That is all she did, yet we all got to know her name and her face.

-Go on a field trip with your child's class.  Reassure the other parents that you will be there to help keep an eye on the children. They will love you!

-If you cannot volunteer during school hours, see if there are other ways you can help out at school during other activities at night.  This will still give you opportunities to meet parents.

Obviously to do all of these would be really overwhelming.  One mom gave me a great piece of advice when Micah entered Kindergarten: "Don't volunteer for everything."  She got burned out fast.  In the same way, don't do everything on this list, but pick one or two if you want to meet other parents.

What other ways have you found to meet parents?  What advice would you give to moms looking to meet other moms?

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