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Making friends with other parents

School entranceDropping children at school can be a challenging experience for many of us. You smell the fug of school dinners and children's cloakrooms and suddenly you are five again. And small and friendless. 

Toddler and baby groups can also make you feel paranoid and loser-ish. Like everyone else is part of a big fat clique. And they are looking at you funny. So here are our best tips for making friends with other parents.

Getting over yourself at the school gate or baby and toddler group

  • Remember that most people not looking at you are not thinking about you either. They may well themselves be shy/distracted/having a crap day.
  • There will of course be parents who already know each other well. They may be happy to make new friends and acquaintances. Or they be an evil clique. But the latter is less common.
  • "My best 'mum friend' is a decade older than me and my exact opposite in just about every way. Unlike me she is not a gob on legs but despite or because of this we are the closest of friends. If I had judged her superficially I would never have become her friend and that would have been my loss." hobnobsaremyfave
  • Some other parents won't be looking to make any very intense new friendships. They may have busy lives / older children / a plethora of existing parent mates.
  • As for mums at baby groups, they are many of them not at the most scintillating time of their lives. Cut them some slack.
  • Don't feel obliged to make friends at the school gates, or as Mumsnetter pagwatch puts it: "Join in or don't. I doubt your child will suffer. Most people will probably neither mind nor much notice. I am sure your children will be fine." 
  • Just because you have produced an infant do you not have to go to babygroups - bonding with strangers over stories of cracked nipples may not be your thing. 

But making some at least functional friends can be useful (think emergency childcare). And sometimes even pleasant.

And similarly going to baby groups can be a tolerable way of getting out of the house. And finding people who will listen to your thoughts on weaning and your anxieties about why your baby hasn't rolled. There are loads of different kinds, from baby music to heuristic play. 

Tips for making friends  at the school gates or baby and toddler group

Typical themes for school-gate chat:
• Weather
• Your toddler is looking cute / ill / tired / cheery today
• Your top looks nice
• Does Molly want to come and play next week?
• Reasons why I can't get involved with the PTA
• Did you see that cheap paddling pool in Sainsbury's?
• What did you do over half-term?
• I met your husband the other day; he is well tasty. morningpaper
  • If you are shy, talk to or flatter someone's kid. You will look friendly and harmless, and may be able to segue into conversation with a parent.
  • Smile at and say hello to everyone. Even people who do this in a wildly inept way tend to disarm at least some other people.
  • Chat to someone standing on her own. This is a ghastly mistake a percentage of the time but you'll live.
  • Engage in some hearty joining in. Join the PTA or make the teas at the toddler group. If you can bear to.
  • Travel hopefully and try to root out paranoia. The chances are not every parent in a given group will be ghastly (although you get the odd sociopath at the school gates, just like everywhere else).
  • Don't have preconceived ideas about whom you will get on with.
  • Dads can sometimes be easy conversational game, if not of the frightened-of-women persuasion.
  • If trying to arrange playdates, be bold and specific about times and places, and exchange numbers.

If you're feeling lonely, or have a priceless tale of school gate one-up-manship to share, scoot over to the Relationships Talk board and cheer yourself and others up.

Last updated: over 3 years ago