If you are a kid, making friends is relatively easy. It’s a matter of proximity, really. Even before they could speak, they seem to organically find ways to interact. While it isn’t always a success, it seems simplest for the under 5 set. With that said, when you don’t have autonomy over your travel arrangements, keeping those new friends become rather difficult.
As parents, that’s where we come in. Your kids are playing beautifully in the park/playground/playgroup/daycare/organized sport. Can you roll this over into a friendship?
Let me tell you a secret. It isn’t about how much your kiddos seem to like each other. Most of the time, if they are close to the same developmental age, they will get along fine. Truly, it’s a question of whether we parents can get along. After all, we’re the ones with the car.
Most have you have grown to realize that helping your kids socialize is like being on the dating scene, all over again. To help steer you through this trying time, here are a couple of hints to help you make playdates, and make new mom/dad-friends.
Be brave: “We should set up a playdate.”
That’s it. Those 6 words will get your foot in the door. Get the digits, and text right away with your name, and your kid’s name. Make a rough estimate, “some time next week?” Tell the parent that you’ll text them in the next couple of days after you check your calendar. Text them back.
Make easy plans: “Let’s try the Children’s Museum.”
Pick a place that has age appropriate activities for kids in a somewhat contained space. Nothing makes a play date more tiresome than pretending your having fun when you are actually spending the entire time watching someone try to help their kiddo up an age inappropriate rock wall. Familiar parks, museums, or even setting up the water table will work.
Be flexible: “Just text me when you get here.”
Let’s be honest. We all want to be on time. Maybe you are really good at it. Not everyone will be. For some reason, our kiddos have the attention span of emotionally fragile goldfish. God forbid you can’t find the light up sandals from two years ago. If your new friend is running late, find something to do until they get there. Help them not feel self-conscious about being late, and then go have fun.
Bring snacks for everyone: “I brought plenty.”
Kids get hungry at inconvenient times, especially when they are making new friends. Bring a bunch of snacks for everyone. Good ones include cereal, cheese sticks, cheddar bunnies, pretzels, juice boxes, yogurt sticks, or food pouches. There is nothing worse than realizing your kiddo is hangry, and you didn’t bring anything. Perfect moms bring amazing snacks for their kids. Adequate moms bring good enough snacks for everyone’s kid.
Make your parenting style known: “I don’t make them share.”
There are a ton of parenting styles out there, and some won’t necessarily gel with others. In our household, we tend towards RIE principles. This makes hanging with helicopter parents cringworthy. The best thing to do is observe the parents, and decide if their style of child-rearing will coexist with yours. If it does, woo hoo! If not, oh well.
Do you like these parents? “I haven’t laughed this hard in a while.”
Like I said, kiddos are really good at making fast friends. As adults, we are not so easy to please. Are these people you could share a meal with? Do you share common interests? Do they annoy you in any way? Answer these honestly before you jump into something too friendly.
Make follow up plans soon: “We should do this again, soon.”
Make those plans, friends. Look at the calendar, and plan something before you say goodbye. You don’t need to be specific, but you do need to ballpark it.
Rinse, lather, and repeat
Making friends is easy. Keeping them are hard. Mom and dad friends are busy people, and generally your newer friends. If you like them, and think that they mesh with your parenting world, put in the effort to maintain the relationship. It really pays off.
Dedicated to Liz, an amazing mom-friend.