Your child is starting school and you’ve read up on how to make their first day as easy as possible. The uniform is neatly ironed, everything has been labelled at least three times over, and you’ve spent the summer encouraging them to put their own socks on (literally the hardest piece of clothing EVER to put on!) And so you are ready – one last hurrah and they’ll be off into the world.
BUT……have you thought about you? Not about how you will handle desperately trying not to cry as they walk through the gates at 9am? Not about how many tissues you might need? But something bigger than that – navigating the school playground!
The first few days aren’t too bad – you are so wrapped up in your own child that you don’t pay that much attention to other parents around you. You see them out of the corner of your eye – you might nod at them or smile in sympathy as they wipe away a tear or try to prise their little one off them at going in time.
However, one day it will happen.
You’ll arrive at the playground to pick up your little darling, and suddenly there are groups of parents chatting together! How on earth did that happen??? You sidle onto the playground and stand on the sidelines, wondering when they had time to get together, what they are talking about and how they all made friends without you knowing. Boy, does it feel like you are back in school yourself!
Don’t panic! Here are 5 top tips on navigating the school playground!
Don’t Worry About Already Formed Groups!
Firstly, remember that some of these parents might have already been friends before their children began school – this is particularly true of a village school (and it’s even harder if you don’t live in the village – believe me, I’ve been there!) So for these groups (and you can tell because the conversation will be about playdates over the summer, or each other’s spouses) don’t worry about joining in – it’ll be too hard in the beginning – these friendships will come later.
Get There Early!
Next, try to get onto the playground as early as you can. It’s much easier to be one of the first parents there as you can start the conversation rather than trying to join in on in full flow. A good start is always ‘How is your little one finding it?’ – you’ll find that conversation will flow really easily from here! It can be very tempting to arrive at the last minute so that you don’t have that awkward wait on the playground, but I can guarantee that you won’t make friends that way!
Believe me – I’ve been there and done it both ways!
Try To Arrange A Playdate!
In the mornings, watch to see which children your little one plays with and strike up a conversation with that parent along the lines of ‘Our children are having fun together – maybe we should get them on a playdate some time?’. A playdate is a great way to make new friends for both you and your child – and it can be as easy as a quick visit to a park after school one day!
Although it’s hard, definitely put yourself out there. I’ve never had the experience of a parent refusing to have coffee with me, or not wanting a playdate – the other parent will be delighted that you made the first move. If you are unsure about asking face to face, then write a quick note and ask the teacher to pop it into the book bag of the child your little one has been playing with. It’s a lovely way to get to know other parents without the scariness of approaching them in person!
Remember – Not All Parents Are Your Tribe!
A word of warning though. Just as in school, there may, over time, be groups of parents that you might not want to be friends with. They might have the one child who doesn’t like yours, or they might have completely different parenting views to you or views on life. It’s truly OK to not want to be friends with everyone – after all we aren’t in the rest of our life, so why should we be in the playground. So do put yourself out there, say ‘yes’ every time someone asks you for coffee or for a playdate, but don’t just spend your time with one person – talk to everyone, and just as in real life, you will soon find your tribe!
Good luck! I found the playground the hardest place to navigate when my little one started school, and it took about a term until I was comfortable, but I met some truly lovely people who have become friends outside of the playground! Go for it – it’s definitely worth the effort!