For the past six weeks I have been attending the Baby Days presentations put on by the Public Health Nurses in Richmond BC. My job is to soothe whichever twin needs adult arms, my daughter takes the calmer one so she can more easily participate.
My first comment is that I am constantly blown away by the support, guidance and advice that public health nurses offer young parents. It was the case when my daughter was a new born, the case when I had the opportunity to train nurses and now I am looking through the eyes of a grandmother. For good solid, day-to-day help for new parents nothing beats the public health nurse in the community.
Secondly, these events are a great way for at-home parents of babies to meet and greet each other. They all live in the same community, all have children about the same age and all care enough about their job of parenting to show up and learn and socialize.
So, for this newsletter, I share my thoughts on how parents can make friends.
Kids Can Open the Door to Friendships
I was recently looking at the guest list for an open house we hosted over the Christmas holidays. This list represents a range of our friends who live nearby.
Sarah is a new Mom who’s also quite new to the Lower Mainland. She recently asked me how she could make friends. “Being home with a new baby makes it pretty difficult for me to go out and meet people but I sure would like to have someone other than family to talk to from time to time,” she explained.
Well, my guest list holds the answer for her.
When I glanced down the names, I realized that the majority of my friends today come through my children and their activities. So the trick is to get out and about. It seems daunting to pack up baby and all her stuff and hit the road but it’s definitely worth the trouble.
A great place to start is the Public Health nurse who can direct you to the right place in your neighbourhood. In my experience Family Places and Family Resource Centres offer terrific opportunities. The beauty of these is that this is simply a drop-in. Show up when you can, stay as long as you wish and relax. You’re not madly trying to get out the door for a fixed time. They are also super casual; you don’t need to dress up. The centres vary from place to place but generally, they are set up as place where a parent can come with a little one and have a coffee and chat with other parents or staff.
Toddlers can play with other kids. Some also have scheduled programs but that’s all optional. The point is that it’s a place, often in your neighbourhood, where you are welcome with your baby and there is no pressure. And you meet other parents in exactly the same situation who live nearby. What could be better?
More structured programs also offer and chance to meet people. Whether you choose a gym program, a craft-activity program, a swim class or a Parent-Child Mother Goose program, look around the room. These are all parents just like you and you know you have one thing in common so starting a conversation is not difficult. Take the risk. Say hello; suggest going out for a coffee and you will soon find your social calendar as full as you wish.
Getting involved in your children’s activities will also lead to friendships. So whether it’s a parent participation preschool, volunteering at the local family resource centre or sitting on the community centre board in order to influence the programming for little ones, you will find yourself surrounded by like-minded individuals.
When you work with people, when you share a passion or a goal, relationships flourish. The problem is that we sometimes get overwhelmed with our own lives and forget to check people out. We can also become over-sensitive about what these new friends may expect from us.
“I’d love to invite a few of the other parents from the centre over for coffee but I just don’t have time to bake something special and get my house clean enough,” was the explanation Tamara gave me for why she just isn’t making friends.
Trust me, they haven’t the time either. They also have a child or children. They don’t expect gourmet treats. Open a can or box of cookies, brew up some coffee, wear a wide smile and you will be viewed as the best hostess in the neighbourhood. You can bake and clean in thirty years when you still have the same friends and you’re all retired.
The beauty of making friends through your children’s activities is that you are going to attend them anyway so it’s simply a matter of going one step further. Your friends will understand the realities of being a parent and excuse you when you’re tired or your child is cranky. And you will keep these friends for decades because you will go through all the child-raising stages together. Your kids will be the same age, more or less.
Then when you look over your guest list three or four decades from now and think about how you met your friends you should phone your kids and thank them for introducing you to such great folks.
Bringing Parenting Today to your event.
Parenting Today is keen to speak as part of your professional development event, parenting workshop or workplace wellness support program. I offer keynotes and workshops, have written books and have ongoing newspaper columns, books, blogs and newsletters. And, no matter what the actual topic, they all share a basic value that I call
P — is a parenting plan
U — is unconditional love
R — is respect for your child as he is right now
E — is encouragement
These make up the framework of any resources that will come from Parenting Today. These four pillars are the essential ingredients for raising healthy children who will develop into capable young men and women.
I’ll be in Winnipeg from December 2 to 4. I am happy to extend these trips if you wish to book an event. I will also be in Calgary and can coordinate that trip to meet your scheduling needs.