How Parents Can Build Their Village
5 ways to meet new people and build a community for you and your family
I often talk about the importance of building and leaning on your village, but what does that mean and how can you do it? Your village is a group of people that you rely on to support you and your family in times of need, and in return, you support them as well. After all, just like any healthy relationship, being a part of a village goes two ways. But what happens if you don’t have a village? The good news is, you probably do, you’re just not utilizing them. If you need to meet new people to build your support system, here are five ways to meet new people and grow your community.
#1: Reach out to your neighbors
Don’t be a stranger! If you move to a new neighborhood and don’t know anyone, consider hosting a housewarming party to get to know the people who live around you. Food is always a fantastic way to open the door for more conversation. If you’re a little more cautious around new people, it never hurts to simply say “hello” whenever you see one of your neighbors checking the mail or going on a walk. You already have your neighborhood in common—that’s a start! This way, you have an established connection with the people who live around you, and in times of emergency, you’ll think of each other.
#2: Join clubs and groups
Look up the Thursday morning yoga classes at the nearby gym, join the PTA at your child’s school or see if there’s a book club at your local library. This way, you’ll discover parents that you already know have something in common with you and your family. Plus, doing these outside activities will help bring a little work-life balance into your day and allow you a little time to focus on you. (Trust me, we can all use and deserve a little more me-time.)
#3: Participate in community events
Find out what’s happening in your neighborhood. Is there a farmers market on Saturdays in the park? Are there summer street festivals or winter carnivals where you can bring your kids? Where and when do the local bands play? Attending these events shows that you care about what’s going on in your community and allows you to meet people in the area and further expand your circle.
#4: Dive deeper into established relationships
Sometimes the relationships we need the most are the ones we’ve accidentally left behind. Another great way to build your community is to reconnect with old friends. Don’t be afraid to grab your phone and send an old friend you may have lost regular contact with a happy birthday text or a message asking to grab a coffee. If they live far away, see if they’d like to set up a coffee date over FaceTime or Skype (same concept, with more technology).
Along with this, you can really dig deeper into your new relationships by:
Keep up with your common interests: Hold onto the things that drew you together in the first place! Something as simple as texting your friends while you’re watching your favorite reality TV show or sending a new favorite recipe you know someone will love, are easy ways to let people know you’re thinking of them.
Follow-up with specifics: When you reach out to further a relationship, make concrete suggestions. If you meet a new family invite them on a park date on Saturday at 2:00 p.m. If a neighbor has said they wouldn’t mind babysitting, ask them if they can do it on Thursdays from 5:00 to 6:00 p.m. That way, they’re more likely to respond with a solid “yes” or “no,” and can let you know alternatives that work for them.
Offer a helping hand: Being a part of a village means giving others some of your time and energy as well. Let those in your village know you’re there for them, too—offer to watch your friends’ kids so they can have a date night or shovel snow for the elderly couple on your block.
#5: Include your child
Having kids means that you’ve joined a varied group of people experiencing many of the same challenges in life. Whether your kids keep you up all night wandering around the house or they refuse to eat food that has touched each other, there’s another parent out there that can feel you on an emotional level. Get together with these parents at kid- and family-focused events such as mommy-and-me yoga classes, learning to cook with kids or weekly flag football games in the park. In doing so, you’ll broaden not only your village but also your child’s friend group.
For more tips on building your village and childcare, check out the Windy City Nanny web series. I talk with real families about real issues, like expanding your group of friends and community.