Wednesday, June 6, 2012

on how to make friends

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i'm going to be honest with you all today. probably more honest, open, and vulnerable than i have in any other post so far.  i want to share with you something that has been weighing on my heart. 

i love my son.  his whole life, i have tried to do what's best for him...natural birthing, breast-feeding, night-nursing/parenting, attachment parenting, homeschooling... and now i've reached an impasse. 

after 3.5 years, i've finally found something that i cannot do for my son.... i can't teach him to be comfortable around other kiddos. 
i can't help him make friends. 
i can't even make friends myself, so what do i do? 

being a stay-at-home mom can be a mixture of bliss and isolation. i turned to blogging as a way to document my days with my son and to network with other SAHMs. it has turned into an amazing gift and i've developed incredible friendships with women around the world.  but logistics get in the way of having any meetups.  
and now...i'm seeing that though Bear is flourishing in many areas, he's somewhat behind socially. he has one friend that we meet up with once every other week, but that's it.  so i reached out....twice...and my efforts have been total failures. once was a group outing with a large playgroup in our city, i talked to 2 people that day. another was a teddy bear picnic that i planned and invited friends with kiddos to. (i've gotten 2 nos and the other 20+ people haven't responded at all)

i see him watching longingly as the girls across the street play.  they come over for a few minutes and leave him there, standing alone at the edge of our driveway. 

i'm not sad for myself.  well, no...that's a lie.  i am sad for me. but most of my despair is for Bear because he understands the situation.  one morning a couple weeks ago, he woke up and said, "today isn't going to be a good day."  so i asked him why.  his answer was:
"because i can't make friends.  i don't have any."

it frustrates me and breaks my heart that i can't give him this one thing that i know he needs.  i don't know what to to give him what he needs....i've never been in this situation...

so today, instead of giving you my thoughts, i'm asking for yours.  how do i do this? 

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Stacy of KSW said...

ok, now I have tears. and trust me sweet friend, we have been in the same situation, We moved here (San Antonio) when my oldest was 3 and I was weeks away from having #3. I tried desperately to get us in to as many playgroups as possible and make as many friends as fast as I could. I came up with nothing.

Zip, zilch, nada.

I organized a get together in our neighborhood, handed out fliers, purchased several hundred hot dogs, baked a ton of cookies and rented a bouncy castle.

3 people showed up. None of them had children.

I continued to try and force friendships where they were clearly lacking and then ... finally 3 YEARS later something clicked.

My son started kindergarten, my blog took off, I met friends at all sorts of random places and then we had friends coming out the wazoo. :)

My best recommendations to you for now:

1: Use social media to find like minded people in your area. I rounded up a gang of social savvy moms by using a hashtag #samoms for my city. We know have a group of over 60 women and plan regular meet ups and fun outings. Next weekend a local chef is preparing a 4 course farm to table meal for us

2. Find a library with a park & a story time. Show up an hour early and let your son play at the park. He will have a chance to get familiar with a few of the kids BEFORE they go to story time.

3. Start regular outings - go to the same story times, zoo events, open art etc and after a while you will notice other regulars. I met one of my best friends because we both went to the same park every tuesday morning at 9 am.

4. give it time - it took me 3 years to finally feel like we belong here or had any sort of normal life (we came off of Active Duty when we got here, so a huge life change for us) right now when he is young and not part of any organized activity it will be harder for him to make lasting connections.

5. Find a MOPS group - seriously, I had never heard of these but all my girlfriends now were part of them and that is how they all know each other. All the women will have children in his age range.

Ok, must go to bed - hope you didn't mind my comment vomit here. Just wanted you to know, I feel where you are coming from.

I hope you come to San Antonio next March for the conference we're planning, you will both have lots of friends waiting for you when you get here!

Unknown said...

completely agree with Stacy! cant add much more! xxx

Learn with Play at Home said...

Well, after reading Stacy's comment I'm not sure I have anything extra I could add. She did such a good job with suggestions!

I totally understand how you feel though. As a teacher of young children I think that generally, most parents concerns are more focused on if their child has friends than if they can write.

Probably the best thing that I did for Maddie was join a mothers group/play group. Part of me was so hesitant because I thought, other than the kids, what am I going to have in common with these people? I don't know if I want to make new friends just because I have a child, etc. But it really was the best thing ever. We didn't click with everyone but there are now a group of 5 of us that just wouldn't know what to do without one another! Our kids still play weekly (it's been 3.5 years now) and whilst we have gone through all kinds of different phases from bullies to exclusion etc with the kids, it has been a great learning experience for not just them, but for the mum's too. We're able to see how the kids are interacting with one another and where we might be able to help. It also helps to have other mum's to bounce ideas off too!

The 2nd thing that has been great for us was me sending Maddie to 3 y/o kinder this year. It is 2 sessions a week for 2.5 hours a session. I put her in purely for the social interaction with others (as we already do all the activities etc. that they do, at home). This has been my first taste of my child not getting on with everyone and feeling excluded at times etc and it's hard. Any mother would feel it. If they hurt, you hurt. I've had to tell my daughter that unfortunately, in this world, not everyone gets along. If someone isn't nice then don't waste your time dwelling on it. There are plenty of nice, good, wonderful people out there just waiting to be our friend... we just have to find them :)

at least you'll know who's house to come and play at if you're ever in Australia! Wish we were closer.. I know we'd have a great time xox

Angie said...

Are you still home schooling? If so, seriously look at going to school. He will have so many more options to make friends and really importantly, make friends by himself without you there. All the other comments good too.

MaryAnne said...

Does your local library have storytime or craft time for littles? That's how I've made my best friends. A local mother's club also helped (we don't have a MOPS group nearby).

I used to be very anti preschool (nobody in my family ever went), but then my son had severe speech delays and significant social delays and I knew that was his best bet for catching up. He was scared of kids, and now makes friends easily. I can't tell you how amazing it was to have him and his sister at an indoor playground yesterday, run into a classmate, and see the classmate jump up and down in excitement over seeing Johnny. It's been so good for him that I'm sending my third when she turns three in the fall - and started her in a once-a-week playgroup through early intervention this spring. The transformation for her from being literally terrified of kids to enjoying spending time with them - with her added happiness - has been incredible. If you can find a preschool that really emphasizes making friends and kindness, it may be worth considering - there may be a coop option, as well, where you could go along with him (and make more friends yourself!)

And if you want to homeschool, is there a homeschool group you can join? I know that is how my homeschooling sister (who really struggled socially growing up) has made friends - for herself, and her four children. I think she usually finds them through yahoo groups, but she might be able to ask around about one in your area through the forums she's on, if you would like me to check with her on that.

The Monko said...

Oh Andie that brought tears to my eyes. It must be so difficult watching your child struggling to make connections. I often worry that I don't provide enough opportunities for goblin to play with other kids but at least he has one day at nursery which guarantees he sees kids his own age. Are there any classes near you that you could attend (we found a lovely Waldorf nature class). Don't be to disheartened, bear is still young and social skills like all skills develop at different paces in different children. Big hugs to you and bear

Gina said...

My heart breaks for you and for Bear. I know this feeling.

When my daughter was young, she was always so painfully shy. She was a wild child at home or if she was comfortable with those she was with. If not, she was a wallflower.

When we dropped her off at kindergarten that first day, besides crying my eyes out because I was leaving my baby, I was worried sick that she would never make a friend. It took time a little time, but she eventually did make friends with the kids and now at 14 years old, she has a wealth of friends. I do believe that playing sports (soccer, softball) helped her out considerably in this area.

I guess I don't really have any good advice, but I just wanted you to know that it may seem bad now, but with time, it can all turn around. Good luck, I hope things turn around (and quickly) for your little guy.

Julie @ Creekside Learning said...

You've gotten a lot of good advice, but I just want to add, coming from another homeschooler, if there isn't a preschool homeschool group in your area, can you start one? I belong to several homeschool yahoo groups where I live and someone started one and posted it on all the different groups and before you know it, they had a little homeschool preschool co-op going on.

If there isn't an active MOPS chapter where you live, try MOMS Club International. This helped me tremendously in both places that we lived to make friends myself as well as for my kids to find friends.

I love the suggestion about going to the same story time or park or whatever each week.

Hugs to you. It will get better.

Charisa said...

So many great suggestions have been shared! Finding and making friends is something that so many of us struggle with, me included! I've found that it's easy to find acquaintances but it's hard to find "good" friends! Good luck to you guys!

Unknown said...

I don't have any advice, but I think it is wonderful that your child has such a wonderful mother who loves him and that he can talk to.

Melissa Taylor said...

You do have friends -- look at all the comments from people who care about you!! Sending you a hug of hope -- things will get better.

The Iowa Farmer's Wife said...

Big hugs Andie! There are some wonderful comments with great ideas in there. I second the MOPS group and if you can find a homeschool co-op in your area I think that would help too! Have you tried Meetup? That is how we found some of our very best playmates. It took several playdates to get to know everyone, but eventually it all worked out. Do you have a park you frequent? It also helps to go to the same one and get to know others that frequent the same park. I know it's such a hard thing. I cry about this often to my husband!

Carrie said...

Oh, Andie, this is something I struggle bit with as well. My almost 3.5 year old is an observer and then a follower, but never seems to be part of the in-group. She has friends, but not really ones that are her own age. She has older friends (mostly because I'm friends with their moms) and younger friends (again put together so us moms can have time together). When she is with friends her age she often is the outcast or on the edge of play and not a full participant. I haven't figured out if she completely gets it yet. There are times when she seems to find a friend in a class or something but the next week or in five minutes that friend has moved on to someone else. Don't know what to do except trying to find opportunities for her to have play with kids her age. Next year she is going to a Waldorf nursery school and I have already arranged a play date with a very shy boy that will be in her class. His mother and I think knowing someone in the class will help both of them adjust in the fall. I hope you can find something like this for Bear. Good luck!! Let me know if you need to talk about it, because I know it sometimes help to share with someone going through it as well.

Marnie @ Carrots are Orange said...

Oh, you sweet, sweet mama!! My best friend from home STRUGGLED big time with the same situation. I am going to get her advice for you. She is an amazing mom and educator (working with autistic kids). We talked A LOT about this situation with her son (now almost six years old). Rather than play "telephone" and speak for her, I'll get her input directly and shoot you a follow up. xxoo.

Cathy @ Nurturestore said...

Andie, if I could shrink the world I'd have you both round here in a flash (& I'd bake cake!) There are some super suggestions here already so I just wanted to give my voice of support to you. But, you know, I think this is going to turn out just fine because I have a hunch you'll do just the right thing for your boy. x

crittersandcrayons said...

Andie- I could have written this post myself! Being a SAHM can really encapsulate us into a world by ourselves but with our kids! I'm still learning how to branch out and "play with others"....Finding play dates for children is actually a science. The kids can hit it off but the moms need to hit it off, too! Sometimes, the balance is off- and truly (and sadly) cliques can exist in the adult world just as they do in high school. He's 3.5 and he's still growing into his Person- every person can connect- we just need to find who it is with. I worried a long time about this very thing for our daughter and she really took to "friendship" and being very social around 4.5. Really! I worried about her being excluded and passed by up until that point- but she is thriving now- I hope that for your son. And, Andie- You do have friends. I'm not in the physical proximity that your local playground is- but some of my best friends are via this blogging network, truly. Hugs and Happiness Your Way.

Unknown said...

What a great, empathetic mamma you are! The suggestions that have already been given are amazing. I agree, I remember trekking to the park and library almost everyday, hoping to find someone to play with. We joined a couple of groups at our local YMCA and that is where we met friends that we have known now for 8 years! Awesome! I also placed my youngest in a twice a week preschool where she found a little "best" friend. Give it time. For some kids making friends is super easy and for kids like mine, it takes some time. The best part is Bear has a loving mom who is truly paying attention to his emotions and supporting him. The rest will come in time. Take care.

Isil Simsek said...

Andie,sending you big hugs.Is there an attachment parenting group near you? I met likeminded people at those meetings when we moved.

Unknown said...

Preschool was a godsend for my daughter. My daughter really struggles with social skills, and preschool gave her an opportunity to not rely on me to help her navigate social situations. It gave her a lot of independence and confidence. Also, I found there was a HUGE difference between 3 and 4. A lot of it for her, was just growing up too. Now, she is still reserved but she knows how to seek out one friend to play with when we are out and about.

Sheri said...

My dear friend. I can just feel your heart breaking in to pieces for your little Bear. I'll be very honest with you. All three of my kids went to preschool. When they were three, it was only for 2.5 hours twice a week, and when they were four years old it was upped to three days a week for 2.5 hours. It was just enough to give them time away from me to gain "their own" confidence.

There is so much value in being loved and protected and nurtured, but there is also value in learning to disagree and problem solve, and a lot of that was learned at preschool. I wasn't there to protect them, so they had to find their own strengths and take from what they had been taught at home to learn to get along with other kids. They also figured out what other kids liked about them, which gave them confidence. And they learned that not everyone gets along, which is just a tough fact of life. Thankfully, they had amazing teachers who were patient and kind and did a fabulous job of helping them to interact.

I don't think that you need to give up your home schooling idea. I do think it would be good for Bear to have some organized social activity without mom or a close relative. He's old enough now to tell you if anything "weird" happens, and it's pretty easy to figure out if a preschool is good by how long the waiting list is to get in to it! Just give it a little thought.

On a side note, my middle son Andrew cried every time I dropped him off for the first two weeks of preschool. He was very attached to his momma, and it was heart wrenching. I just had to assure him that he was going to be safe, and that I WOULD be coming back for him. By the time I would pick him up, he was playing and laughing and would come running to me with awesome projects that he had made to show me (after hugging his teachers "goodbye"), of course. :)

There are a lot of really good options from your friends on here, and I'm sure that you will figure out what is best to do for Bear. I think that it's cool that he "wants" to play with kids. It shows that he is growing in to a big boy, and getting ready to spread those little wings.

Everything's gonna be alright. <3 said...

So many great comments that already cover what I was thinking, but I wanted to sign on to say that you and Bear are in my thoughts about this. What a challenge. I would also suggest, perhaps, finding some children's books about shy children/characters and about making friends. I fine with my toddler that whenever we face a challenge, reading a book with characters going through a similar challenge really helps. If I had the time, I'd do some research right now to suggest some. When I get a chance, I will! All the best.

Gina said...

Sending hugs from my end as well! This is something that I worry about ALL of the time for my little one. I am a SAHM and there are very few opportunities for children around our area. (The library story time won't even allow kids under 3!) I mostly worry though, because like you, I have a terribly hard time making friends. I don't want him to grow up afraid to voice his opinions or to step out and join in a discussion that others are having like I am. It is so hard being awkward in social situations. I often wish I could be like others who can talk to anyone and sit comfortably amongst a crowd. Sending warm thoughts your way for both you and Bear!

Julie Rogers said...

You sound like a great mom and what a HARD situation. My oldest is definitely shy/slow to warm up/super attached to mommy. I have to say that in the past year, he has grown in leaps and bounds in this area. Now, he will play with new kids at the park, is fine at his short preschool days (once I leave!), and greets people who walk by. But he definitely has his moments...

The main thing I do is to just keep getting him out around others...we do library story times, head to the park sometimes with friends/sometimes just us, play dates both in and out of the house, and look into classes (a fitness class, a nature class, anything?)

And I do think it helps when I leave him every once in awhile when I'm not around (I enrolled him on a couple mornings a week preschool during the spring (we are off for summer) and leaving him with a neighbor/babysitter). Then he has to manage relationships with others when I'm not there---which in the end I'm hoping gives him more confidence.

I hope this makes sense and I totally understand what you mean---thoughts out to you!

Sarahmumof3 said...

I can't add any extra advice above what has already been said but wanted to add my thoughts or you, it is tough watching our children sit on the outside of friendship groups :( xxx

Happy Whimsical Hearts said...

Oh Andie, my heart goes out to you and Bear. You're are a great mum and are helping him navigate things so well. This is a hard issue and one I think most parents worry about. Lots of great suggestions have been given already ~ I think finding a group of some sort where you will meet like-minded parents and both feel comfortable might help... and I know that can be super difficult. I tried numerous mother groups and until I started Waldorf playgroup didn't find the right fit (and now we have a new family whose parenting seems to clash a little with ours, so struggling at the moment). I also reconnected with some old friends from school that have kids, and although their kids are older it has been nice to create those connections between the kids too. Hugs, Kelly xx

Unknown said...

Oh girl, this post... well it really hits home and my heart aches for you and Bear. You see I am in the same boat with Alexis. Although she has mental handicaps and multiple delays which I know Bear does not, the situation is quite the same. I wish, oh how I wish I could make things better for them both right now. I know that Alexis is quite aware that she does not feel comfortable around those her age, yet she desperately wants friends to play with. Austin on the other hand, was very mommy attached and was not interested in other kids. He like some of the other commentors above attended preschool a few hours a weeek and made a few close friends there. He is much like me, I too have a hard time making new friends but the ones I have I cherish deeply. I always tell my kids its about the quality not the quantity of friends. I would much rather have just a few close good friends than a whole bunch who I don't have a close bond to.

Much like those above, perhaps a few {just a few} hours in a play based preschool could work wonders if for no other reason but for the social aspect. I've often thought of homeschooling Alexis, but have resisted because I'm afraid I would be excluding her from alot of the social aspects of mainstream schooling. Each has it's pros and cons.

The most important advice I could offer you is to pray and trust that God will place an opportunity in yours and Bears path. Just wondering if your church has a preschool sunday school class. That could be another great opportunity to meet some like minded folks... perhaps a call to the church office, explaining your situation, could open up another avenue if they are aware of other SAHM's in your church family.

Much love and prayers for you both!

Deb Chitwood said...

My heart breaks for you, Andie. I know how hard it is for shy children to fit in sometimes, but they often end up with the closest friends for life. The suggestions you've gotten are wonderful!

Both of my now-adult children are introverts by nature. We had our best luck with homeschool co-op activities and church activities when they were little. As they grew older, following their interests led to their best friendships. My son had good friends from scouting, skiing, and figure skating. My daughter always loved dance and met her best friend at her ballet class. At 22 years old, they're still great friends (and her ballet friend was a bridesmaid at my daughter's wedding). My daughter also made many long-term friends in figure skating. As adults, my kids can get along with anyone and have lots of good friends. So life can be great for introverts, too!

Sending lots of love, hugs, and prayers for you and your family. Deb @

Unknown said...

I can't really add anything to all these wonderful comments and suggestions but wanted you to know that you are so not alone in feeling this now teen went through this even though she came to work everyday in daycare with me and had a lot of opportunities to socialise! It doesn't always matter if you have them out and about in society is what i wanted to say...sometimes they are just kids that need that little extra help to explore the world socially. She had a tough time in primary school too but has blossomed in high school.
I think the idea of getting out to some playgroups or activities at the libray is good...i am feeling a little guilty at the moment because i don't get out much with the twins and now when we actually do they seem so very excited! Sometimes people are more likely to attend a get together in a local park rather than each other's houses too i have perhaps that could be worth a try? Or maybe a themed get get together to engage the parents interest? I think nowadays a lot of people are shy about getting together as there are so many parenting styles as well.
Anyway...i just wanted to offer a big cyber hug and let you know that sometimes it isn't about the socialisation that we are or aren't providing so try not to be too hard on yourself. Miss Teen always found it difficult to make friends and she had been attending daycare/preschool from very young as i worked in centres full time and was a single parent. But she has learnt some valuable lessons about making trusted and special friendships now and although she has only a small group of friends they are important. Your little Bear will find his way with such a wonderful Mum guiding i am sure xxx

Unknown said...

Hey girl, looks like you have TONS of awesome suggestions and ideas! Hang in there, you and he will both get the hang of things and find a groove. Remember that more than likely other Mothers are looking at you in awe of how you and your child stand on your own two feet and how confident you seem in your child and your parenting. No one knows what's going on inside your head - unless they are reading. - :) My Momma always said, "It's lonely at the top!".... Love ya girl!

Claire said...

Im a SAHM of four children,and i wondered i you have noticed any other behaviors or sensory dislikes perhaps, my son has Autistic spectrum disorder,im not saying your son has however many people have traits of ASD such as poor social skills and preferring not to socialising. But there are many other indicators as well so please don't worry but it may be useful to speak with someone if you feel there may be a chance.If he has an additional need the sooner you support this the bigger the difference to him, it sounds like you are a fantastic mother try not to worry many many children go through this and they find their way to what suits them.
Good luck

Unknown said...

Hi Andie, I think there are a lot of great suggestions here. My husband was in the military and we moved to North Carolina where I didn't know anyone so I know how you feel. My children socialize with children their age quite a bit now because I started an in-home preschool. However, I do not think it has benefited them socially. They have picked up some bad habits from some of the other children. Their personality sometimes resembles that of their peers. Although this is sometimes a good thing, it also saddens me because I wanted them to develop their own personality without those influences. Before the preschool, looking back, i think they had plenty of socialization through church functions, family, and the occasional play date. I think that too much "socialization" with children their own age at this point in their lives may not be best. If you could find an older child who's personality you like that would be willing to come and play with him that might be a great benefit, sort of like a mentor. My mom said she used to pay older neighbor kids to play with me for $1 an hour, so she could get things done, and for me to be able to play with someone. I worried about socialization too, but now I would say that if your boy is happy, healthy, and respectful then don't stress too much. He is still so young. Let him develop his own personality and help establish his character before he goes to school, so when he does go he doesn't change so drastically that you begin to wonder, "Where did my sweet boy go?" I think that you are a great mother especially for being so honest and asking for suggestions. I can tell you love your son more than your words can express. I wish you lived closer. We could have a play date!

Lisa C said...

I shed a tear reading this as well. I lead the family group for our Newcomers club in town, first to meet as many people as possible and then so I could try to connect with people in your situation. Our little social club allowed for my kids to see the same kids every week (sometimes twice a week), and over time they began to develop relationships that were more than just a play date for the moment. Some of the children have become easy playmates for my kids and some are more like relatives that are always at the gatherings and they need to learn to be together even if they don't especially get along. There are ones that provide great learning experiences when we talk about what they did or how my kids reacted to them and how it must have felt. Overall they have made some life long friends by having several kids to "choose from". In the midst of it all I have made some deep friendships with women I didn't think I'd have anything in common with. Some are half my age, from a different country, or complete opposites in politics, yet we have bonded over the child rearing experience. I hope you can find a MOPS or Newcomers or home school or church or kinder music, or neighborhood group to participate in and then offer to lead a piece of it. When you do find a group and he's learning how to make friends, I recommend the book Th Runaway Bunny. It's a nice book to talk about how to first understand the other person and then how to have them understand you.

Learn with Play at Home said...

I loved that reply :)

Unknown said...

Andie! I've featured this post at one of my top 5 favorite parenting posts of all time! Come on over to see it! Oh, and make sure you linke up some of your favorite parenting posts!

Jill @ A Mom With A Lesson Plan said...

Just now seeing this post. It's beautiful and clearly hits a nerve with so many of us. My kids are extremely outgoing. They make friends with everyone they meet, but they don't have the any really close relationships outside of their cousins. I hope for them to learn how to deepen their friendships and find close friends that they can't wait to be near.

Not surprising I have the same problem. I can "chat" with anyone but have very few close friends outside of my sisters. Over the past few years I have made a real effort to increase my "girl circle" but the truth is, I love to be with my family... I don't need anything more than that.

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