How does the saying go? “It takes a village to raise a child.” Pandemic parenting has led to smaller villages and an appreciation for the parenthood communities we were used to surrounding ourselves with. You may be feeling isolated or alone, but how do you seek out new friendships?
Gone are the days when you were in school, participating in sports and going to after-school activities where you were exposed to other kids. Making friends was easier back then! Now, as a parent, you may not be participating in as many social events or activities, but there’s still plenty of ways you can put yourself out there and connect with other parents.
Vulnerability and honesty parenting is a tough job. In many ways, everyone is working on raising a family who is kind, empathetic, confident, and curious, all while taking care of themselves, managing a household, and for some, working outside of the home. When connecting and looking for other parents to befriend, there is a certain vulnerability and honesty you need to embrace. Social media, forums, and special interest groups are embracing the imperfections and messiness of parenthood, which leaves space for you to share your own struggles and experiences. By sharing with others, you open the door to connect, empathize, validate, and build relationships.
Read on for some of the different avenues for seeking out parent friends. As you explore these options, engage from a place of honesty, vulnerability, and openness:
Social media (good old social media!). An easy way to reach out from the comfort of your home and into the lives of others! From seeing the activities people are doing to the experiences they are living to the food they are making, the wonderful thing about social media is you can find any niche interest group. Are you a mom in Calgary? Join a local moms’ group! Are you looking for ways to use up all that sourdough starter you made at the beginning of the pandemic? There’s a group for that! Looking for ways to better utilize screen time in your house? Yup, there are parents out there talking about that! Through social media, parent friendships can be built with group members all over the world, and although your ‘get-togethers’ are digital, these relationships can fulfill the need to feel connected, inspired, heard, and validated. Plus, by engaging in special interest or hobby groups, you can expand your relationships to be based on some of your own interests, which is a wonderful form of self-care.
School or daycare. You know that parent who shows up at pick-up every day at the same time as you? Maybe it’s time to move past the cordial smile, head nod, and strike up a conversation! Ask the teachers in your child’s classroom or daycare to keep an eye out for another child that your child connects with, then offer to share your contact information with that parent. Most of the time, parents are standing around waiting for their child anyways, so why not open up a dialogue with a classic, “Yikes! It’s cold out today!” or, “I wonder what’s taking so long for the kids to come out.” Not every connection with every parent will be a winning combination, but it never hurts to engage in a conversation or try a fun playdate with a new parent and child that your child is familiar with.
Local parenting groups. In Calgary, there are amazing programs run by several great organizations. Some are starting back up in person again, while others are hosted online, so there is something for everyone. Check out offerings at your local library, organizations like Families Matter, PACT, and YW Calgary, register for local parent-and-tot swim classes if you have a younger child, or drop in at a play group at your community centre. These groups not only offer opportunities for friendship, but you may also learn some tips and tricks, parenting strategies, new songs, and more!
If you are at a playground or play place, let your kid lead the conversation. Kids are great at breaking the ice with other children, and once they are chatting and playing together, you can wander over to their parent and strike up a conversation. Make a joke, make a positive comment about the kids - find an easy way to break the ice. If you are at a playground or play place in your neighborhood, you might be able to find some new friends on home turf!
Making friends as an adult and parent may feel like an extremely awkward dating game, but we promise, other parents are out there noticing you and wondering how to break the ice, too. Offer up a compliment, throw out a joke, chuckle together as you watch your kids interacting with each other. We all are looking for people to add to our villages, and while it will take a little time and effort (and maybe a few failed attempts), there are other parents out there who might be the friend, support, and parenting partner in crime you have been searching for!
Ashlee and Lisa are child psychologists who created KidsConnectPsychology as a place for children and families to access tools, supports, and therapy. For digital downloads, parenting tool kits, information about parent counselling, school consultations, daycare consultations, and more, visit kidsconnectpsychology.com. Follow on Facebook and Instagram.
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