Do you find it difficult connecting with other parents at the school or nursery? Do you lack confidence, feel awkward or believe you have been judged? Inside you want to say hello and smile but you are not getting the opportunity; whilst some parents make it look so easy and are swarmed with loud laughter and deep interesting conversation.
There are multitude reasons why a parent may feel left out and even worse, feel like their children are consequently losing out with fewer birthday invitations and after school play invites. It can seem especially hard for single parents or parents with less. Every school playground has its influencers, power brokers, insiders and outsiders. Winning the friendship of other parents is not easy but it can be done!
Here are my top tips (based on experience) for winning parents:
#1 Keep Smiling
Don’t stare down at the floor, look up and ahead and smile, FFS look happy! Think of your children, think of something funny, prepare to make yourself happy every time you enter the playground to drop off or collect your children. Make your children laugh as well. Your children will see how happy you are and it will radiate to their friends and the parents will notice. If you enter the playground looking flustered, angry, shouting at the kids, scruffy and withdrawn then you may as well be invisible. Other parents will feel intimidated and keep their distance. You want to give off a calm at ease happy vibe.
#2 Invest in Presentation
Don’t be a drip and say ‘I don’t care what people think about how I look’ We do live in a material world and impressions count. Parents get judged and so do their children. So make an effort to ensure you and your children look clean and smart. Do you want that scruffy, loud, angry parent with their kids around your house? Probably not. Your children are representations of you, so make sure they look clean and smart. Even if it means you make that extra effort with your appearance just for the school playground drop off and pick up. Look at the other parents, what are they wearing? What can you learn? The presentation includes the car.
#3 Research for Relevant Conversation
You are not going to win all the parents around overnight. It’s a process of incremental efforts on your part. Best to try and start with winning around one parent. Figure out who their son or daughter is. So when you see that parent on their own you are ready to boogie in and stand next to them to talk about something relevant. Keep the conversation positive, start with something easy – the children’s teacher i.e. Is your son/daughter in Mrs McClusky’s class? (you already know the answer) so the parent will answer ‘Yes!’ Your reply: Isn’t it great the children are learning about ………. my……….(insert your child’s name) is really enjoying……….and has not stopped talking about it………oh I’m (insert your name) – the other parent should respond positively. You are now up and running!
The art of conversation is not hard if its researched and relevant! Subjects to talk about: school holidays, plays, open evenings, fun places you have been etc. Don’t over egg it, though, keep the conversation light and spread out over a period of days/weeks. Don’t stalk the parent. Keep everything happy, light and fun. If you move too quickly then you will scare them off. And don’t moan or be negative. Be cool, happy and positive!
#4 Good Timing
Good timing is invisible. Bad timing sticks out a mile. So don’t rush things. Wait until you feel that parent is interested and comfortable enough for you to suggest a play date. How do you gauge interest? Answer: Is that parent making an effort to seek you out? Do they say hello before you see them? Do they flow the conversation with you? Do they ask interesting questions of you? – If not, then wait and let the relationship mature naturally. Go easy, it will happen.
When you are ready to make a social invite, make sure you give plenty of notice and the ‘event’ is non-threatening. For example, an invite for a playdate at your home can be awkward, you have to keep the conversation flowing and keep the children engaged. So try a play centre as the first social invite i.e. Do you fancy coming to ………(insert play centre name) next week? as it’s a special treat for ………(insert your child’s name) and they asked if (insert their child’s name) could come, and it would be to watch them play over a coffee.
#5 1 by 1
Once you have one parent as a friend – you are a winner and the rest will gradually follow. But you must keep up the effort. Don’t be over the top and come across desperate. Be natural. That one parent can introduce you to their friends. Parents trust revolves around their children. Most parents get stuck for things of interest to do. Engage yourself in the school. Volunteer. Donate. Research interesting things to do – camping, beach, cinema, swimming, play centres etc. Doing these things will help you with relevant interesting conversations. If you child does not get invited to a party – never mind – invite those same children to your child’s party, research fun stuff to do and win those parents around! Word will soon spread!