They say that when your kid starts school, it’s like starting school again yourself. All of that angst of “Will they like me?” “Will I make any friends?” “Who will I talk to?” rises up again. You may not be wearing the uniform, but it can be just as daunting for you as it is for your kid.
I, for one, was terrified when my son started school. I’d just moved to a new area, I didn’t know anyone, and I was worried that I wasn’t quite up to scratch in the mom department. For a lot of the moms from my child’s class, this was their second child so they had already met and bonded with moms and had formed their own cliques.
For me, it was the first time at the school gates and I wasn’t quite sure of the etiquette. Also, I worked full-time, so it was really difficult to get to know anyone as I was always rushing off from drop-off, and I was never around for pick-up. It took a lot of effort, but eventually I broke the ice and made some of the best friends of my life at the school gates.
Looking back, here are nine valuable tips I wish I had known for bonding with your fellow moms — insuring you always have someone you can call on to help you when you’re stuck in traffic and can’t get to school, or need to borrow a tennis racket, or just need to vent to. Trust me, these women will be a huge source of support. All you need to do is take a deep breath and …
1. Throw a party and invite the class.
That way you can meet everyone all in one go. Yes, it is an effort to host, but it’s a surefire way to get to know every mom. The general rule in parenting is that before your kid can negotiate the toilet all by themselves, you have to hang around in case they need to poop. So most parents in the early years stick around for the whole party. I used to dread these events — not knowing a soul as I worked and wasn’t on the school run. But with hindsight, they were a fantastic way of getting to know all the parents as we stood around some hot, sweaty, packed, noisy soft play area and prayed our kids wouldn’t OD on cake.
2. Ask someone to go out for coffee.
It is insanely awkward standing around and making small talk with people you don’t know, but after the first week or so, once you’ve got the pleasantries out of the way — ask one of them for a quick coffee. They’ll accept and from then on you will always know at least one friendly face.
3. Host playdates.
As soon as your kid has settled into class and made a friend, ask them over for a playdate. That way you get to chat to the mom or dad when they pick them up and you’ve been nice to their kid, so it’s a win-win. They will have your kid over in return, and the ice will be broken.
4. Volunteer at the school.
Help out at the bake sale, the Christmas fair (I have been Santa’s helper for several years now), or the class trip to the museum. It’s guaranteed that you will meet other moms as you wait around for your kids to buy cakes, see Santa, or go to the restrooms. You will find someone you click with.
5. Use their services.
Often moms do part-time work — maybe they are the local cake baker, jewelry maker, or beautician. Use them! That way they will appreciate your business and you will get to know them. One of the nicest moms I know is a magical cake baker; there is nothing she can’t create and every year I get beyond excited as my kids’ birthdays roll around, knowing I’m going to order one of her masterpieces.
6. Attend sports events.
One of the best ways to get to know other parents is to attend a sporting event or some kind of activity and cheer on other people’s children as well as your own. Everyone loves to hear good things about their kids so as soon as you compliment their kid, they’ll be putty in your hands.
7. Arrive early to school.
If you can, get to the school gates early, because while you stand around waiting for the teacher to open the classroom, there are a few minutes to chat. This is the perfect time to get into a conversation because every mom is bored, trying to stop their kids from dashing off to climb on the monkey bars and are happy to pass the time with a bit of like-minded chat. Get in there and comment on the weather, what you think of the excessive homework the kids are getting, or simply compliment her cardigan. All of a sudden, you’ve got a friend!
8. Offer to be the class rep.
The class rep is responsible for the teacher’s collection at Christmas and the end of the school year to buy a gift, and other parents will be insanely grateful that they don’t have to do it! It’s a surefire way to get to know everyone really quickly.
9. Search out the new moms.
See the women who are pushing strollers or are pregnant or have a baby strapped in a sling? Chances are if their bigger kid has just started school and they’ve just had baby no. 2, then they are new like you! They don’t know the lay of the land and will be delighted to have someone to talk to, especially since the rest of their day is spent with a toddler/baby. Coo over their new bundle and watch their faces light up — adult conversation!