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New to school and feeling awkward? Here's 5 tips to make friends with other parents.

Mamamia logo Mamamia 6/2/2019 Nama Winston

Parenthood is a great equaliser. No matter who you are or what you’ve done, once you’ve had a child, we’re all in the same boat. And nowhere is this more obvious than at the school gate, where we are all simply parents, doing our job.

But it can sometimes feel awkward at school pick up, especially if you don’t know anyone yet. If you’re new to the school, that ‘new parent sensation’ is something you may be feeling keenly while you’re waiting, especially when it seems as though everyone else knows everyone else.

The thing is, you know it’s important for your kids that you make an effort with the other parents. After all, that’s how you get the insider information on how things actually work beyond the directions in the school handbook. Things like how strict the definition of ‘healthy’ lunchbox is, how well the school’s raincoat washes, and whether you’re actually allowed to drink at the New Parents drinks – or more than one wine is a total faux pas.

You also know it’s good for your kids that you make these adult connections. These are the families you’ll both be spending time with at sports carnivals and birthday parties for years to come, so you’d like to get to know them, feel comfortable with them, and feel part of things.

But what if you’re shy? It’s not easy for any of us to just walk up to strangers and start chatting, and this is especially so if you’re anxious about doing it.

But don’t worry, here are five tips that may help.

1. Relax.

You may feel this is easier said than done, but over-thinking things isn’t helping, so do your best not to. If it doesn’t happen immediately – or even in the first term – it will. As you and your kids become more familiar with the new community, they will become more familiar with you, too. And undoubtedly, at some point, someone will reach out to you.

2. Remember you’re not the only ‘newbie’.

You may think you’re the only ‘newbie’ but chances are, the women next to you who are having a huge deep and meaningful in the five minutes before the kids are released, only just met each other last term. There’s no need to feel self-conscious.

3. It’s not all up to you.

If you’re not a single parent, don’t forget there’s two of you who can take on this task of making parent-friends. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself; talk to your partner and explain why you feel making parent-mates is important, and approach it as a team.

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4. Start simple.

A simple “hello” is often the best ice breaker. If the other parent is open, they will recognise you’re making an effort, and will do the same. Be prepared to offer a little about yourself, such as your child’s name and which school you’ve come from.

If this feels too direct, ask a question such as “I’m new, do you know if the school uniform shop open now?” Or you could even try a compliment like, “I love that scarf you’re wearing.”

If you’re the kind of person who uses humour to hide nervousness, work with it. There’s nothing like offering something funny such as, “So is it the end of term yet?” to unite parents in their common exhaustion.

5. Get amongst it.

You might not be up for becoming class representative or joining one of the school committees, but taking a small step such as volunteering in the classroom or in the canteen – where it’s not a huge group of other parents – may feel less intimidating.

Good luck, and remember, you won’t be ‘the new parent’ forever.

Have you found it difficult or easy to make friends with other parents at school? Tell us in the comments below.

If you’d like to hear more from Nama Winston, see her stories here, and subscribe to her weekly Mamamia Parents newsletter here.

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