School is back in session for pretty much everyone around the country – with a new school year comes new fears and new friends. Many of us can remember when a new kid came on the school scene, or maybe we were that kid. You learned how to adapt and make friends. But how about being the new parent at school? A lot of the other parents may already know each other, causing you to feel left out. Or maybe you’re the only dad in a large group of involved moms (or vice versa). Parents can form “cliques” too and boy do they!
These days, more and more parents are getting involved in their kids’ education. Studies show a myriad of positive effects from parents being involved. So sitting on the sidelines when you’re new is less and less of an option.
Here are some tips for fitting in when you’re the new parent at school.
1. Observe the Groups
At first, it can be beneficial just to watch the groups. See who’s in which group, which parent is the “ringleader,” and who’s on the outskirts. Pick out individuals who seem like they’re approachable (probably not the ringleader) and just strike up conversation.
2. Talk to Individuals
Each individual is like a “door” into a group. Strike up a conversation with a person you’ve observed interacting in a group, and just get to know him/her. Try to keep it low key; exchange basic information and see if you have any interests in common. This is easier than trying to socialize with a whole group at once.
If you find it hard to initiate conversation, try starting with a compliment, either about the parent or his/her child. Most parents warm up when you say something good about their child.
3. Spend Some Time in the Classroom
Volunteering to help out in the classroom or in some other way at your child’s school is a great way to meet other parents who are doing the same thing.
4. Initiate a Gathering
Sometimes, it’s easier to host something yourself than wait to be asked to an event. See if some other parents would like to meet you somewhere for a playdate, such as a park. It’s less pressure than having them over to your house, and it’s an opportunity for you and your child to meet with other families.
5. The Teacher Is Your Friend
It’s important to realize that your child’s teacher is an ally. He or she sees parents come and go, and has valuable insights into how the parent “cliques” work. Try not to be intimidated – the teacher is just an ordinary person who may be close to your age. It’s not a bad idea to get to know the teacher and gain some valuable tips and suggestions.
All of the above tips can also be flipped just a tad to help your child fit in at a new school! Together, you can make some new friends – try it!