Friends help us navigate the world, and as the song says, “We all get by with a little help from our friends.” Friends are significant for parents.
Having positive relationships with friends, co-workers and neighbors can help reduce the stress and isolation parents can experience. But while the importance of a support system is well understood, building new connections as a parent can feel scary.
Friends give you a sense of belonging, support and encouragement and help you feel less alone. Friends help parents through tough times and celebrate the happy moments. Parents with a social network of emotionally supportive friends often feel better equipped to care for themselves and their children.
Social connections are positive for parents and can form a support system around your entire family. Kids thrive when they have multiple adults who love and positively support them. Your support system can include relatives or members of your chosen family, those who aren’t biologically related but give your family mutual love and support.
Between work, shuttling kids to and from school, making dinner, keeping the house clean, and all the other responsibilities you have every day, it can feel impossible to find time to make friends. The good news is that other parents feel the same way! While it can feel like you don’t have time to form friendships, you may already be doing more than you know. Building a support system for you and your family can take time, but it will make all the difference.
Recognize Your Connections
The first step to building friendships is to identify your current connections. You may not realize some of the bonds you’ve already formed with those around you. Take the time to think about the people you interact with during your daily routine.
Identify the groups you already belong to – your neighborhood, child care center, child’s school, work, kid’s afterschool activities, church, a gym or fitness program or extended family. Consider the following questions:
- What groups help you feel good about yourself?
- Are there other places you would like to connect?
- Where do you spend your time? Do you already have connections with others who spend their time there?
Your answers to these questions help discover which qualities you prioritize in friends and narrow down which groups have these characteristics. If you are part of a group where you feel accepted and can be supported, focus on building relationships with these individuals first!
Connect with Other Groups
After determining the social connections that you may already have, you can work towards strengthening those or building more! You can go to many places and activities to try to form these relationships. You can:
- Get to know your neighbors.
- Learn more about your co-workers and attend outings.
- Start conversing with other parents at drop-off or pick-up at school or activities. Introduce yourself and find similarities.
- Take a class at your local library or community center.
- Volunteer in your child’s classroom or at a local organization.
- Enroll in a positive parenting program.
- Play at the park and chat with other parents.
- Coordinate get-togethers with the parents of your child’s friends.
- Attend school-sponsored activities.
- Join a parent support group.
- Sign up for a gym membership or fitness class at your local rec center, YMCA or gym.
- Become a regular at the local library and attend events like story times or book club meetings.
- Invite other families to spend time with you at the park, library or community center.
- Find a faith community that has an active children and youth ministry.
- Re-connect with friends or relatives you may have lost touch with.
- Expand your circle and build relationships with friends of friends.
- Join a group or class for an activity you enjoy - walking, crafting or reading.
No matter where or how you build your village, it’s most important you invest in relationships where you feel loved and accepted. When fully supported, you can provide the same support system for your child.
Blog post by special contributor: Children’s Trust of South Carolina