Back when you were a kid, teen and young adult, making friends was easy. Surrounded by your peers in activities and school, it was easy to find things to connect over. But as you grow and enter the so-called "real world," making friends becomes a big challenge. "Later your life diverges [and you] have to pursue relationships more actively," says Irene S. Levine Ph.D., professor of psychiatry at New York University's School of Medicine and author of Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friend.
Levine says that making friends just doesn't come as naturally when you are older. The good news? With a little effort, you can turn those playground jaunts into friend-making adventures. Ready?
You probably already know that having friends is important. But as a busy mom, it can be harder to prioritize friendships, especially new ones... but you should. Why? "It's really important that women set aside time for themselves. It helps them become better people [and] better mothers," says Levine. "Other mothers can be really good mentors."
So much good can come out of having friends who are in the same stage of life as you, says Levine. "Women always tend to compare themselves to their friends. …They give you lots of role models and I think it's similar to moms, you might be able to pick up some techniques from your siblings or your moms but friends give you more opportunities to learn," says Levine.
That said, it's also important to maintain your friendships with your non-mom friends as well.
|Open with a question, such as asking about the age of the mom's child. This can give you a point to connect on (especially if your child is close in age!). Then, keep talking.|
All right, so you are off to the playground. There are moms around. How do you cross the line from being a mom at the park with your child to being a friendly mom speaking to another friendly mom? "I think that having a baby or a young child is almost like having a beautiful poodle. It's something that attracts other people and sparks conversation. It's easy for two mothers to find a commonality. …It really is a conversation starter," says Levine.
Open with a question, such as asking about the age of the mom's child. This can give you a point to connect on (especially if your child is close in age!). Then, keep talking.
Whatever you do, erase your preconceptions and just be open. "I have made more friends in the last year or so than ever in my life. I have found that just being open and friendly is the best way to make friends. ... I try not to have preconceptions of people I meet based on how they look or act. I figure everyone is worth meeting and possibly getting to know," says mom of three Ramona Arellano-Snyder.
So, you've chatted up a mom. Now what?
Go to the park again at a similar time on another day. If you run into the same mom, chat again. After a few times of doing this, hopefully you will have developed enough common interests that you will find a way to take your new friendship from the park into another dimension. "If you find a common interest you might find that you want to go to a Gymboree class together," says Levine.
The important thing? Go with your gut ... if it feels too early to trade phone numbers, then don't. Just wait and let things develop. "Don't be overwhelming, pushy or expect to be close friends - relationships take time. When you push, others pull away," advises Debbie Mandel, author of Addicted to Stress.
Now, what are you waiting for? Head to the park and make a new friend!
Playgroups are advantageous for both parents and children, as they allow children to socialize with other young kids while offering an opportunity for parents to share experiences and advice. Consider participating in a regular playgroup with helpful tips from an experienced mom in this video on child socialization.
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