Making friends at a new school

Well, here we are. All moved and stuff.

We’ve been in the new house a grand total of ten days now. All the boxes are unpacked, the broadband is set up (miracles do happen) and I’m at the point now where I have time to sit back and reflect. What I realised, on reflection, is that I have moved us to a city where basically none of us know anybody.

And yes, I knew that really, but I was so focussed on the long-term, on the picture in my head of us all thriving in a vibrant city, surrounded by interesting people and activities, that I forgot about the bit in between, the bit where you have to go out and meet people.

“When are people going to make friends with me?” I asked Bee this morning in a slightly feeble voice.

She looked pityingly at me, but wasn’t able to offer any concrete answers.

Bee has two months of lying in bed and eating toast to do before she starts her new college, but I’m sure that as soon as she does, it won’t be long before she’s gathered a new group of girls with dyed black hair, and scruffy boys, unable to draw their eyes away from her chest. Belle has started already, wasting no time in making friends at her new school. She’s even ingratiated herself with the neighbours already, managing to get herself invited round for tea with a girl in our street, just by knocking on the door and asking.

It doesn’t quite work like that for grown ups though does it? I don’t think I’d get quite so friendly a reaction if I simply spotted someone of a similar age, knocked on their door, and asked if they’d like to play Sylvanian Families with me. Making friends as an adult seems to be a more complicated process.

The obvious place for me to meet new people would be school, but playgrounds have always scared me, probably both a cause and a symptom of my questionable level of popularity during my own school years.

When you think moving schools, the focus is of course on the child, and how they will settle in, but what about the parents? How do you go about breaking into the established parent friendship groups? How, with just five minutes at either end of the day, do you make friends on the playground?*

Never one to wait for things to happen to me, I am seizing the bull by the horns and on Thursday will be attending many parent’s worst nightmare – a PTFA meeting. If I can’t win friends with my personality, I can definitely win them with my efficient administrative and fundraising skills.

I just need to learn the lessons from school and not put my hand up for everything. I won’t learn of course – I never could control my arm at school either. I will come home as the Treasurer, I just know it. Still, it’ll be a small price to pay if I make a friend or two.**

*If you are reading this and happen to be a parent at Belle’s school, please go and say hello to the lonely looking woman standing on her own. Actually, if you are a parent at any school you should do that. That would be a Nice Thing.

**I am aware that this has a slightly desperate edge to it. I do HAVE friends, I would just like some within a 30 mile radius.



  1. Joanna
    12 July, 2011 / 11:47 am

    Hey, I am a single mum in Bristol too, although my little one is only five months old so no school yet. Welcome! Let’s do coffee at some point. lthough my little one is only five months old so no school yet. Welcome! Let’s do coffee at some point.

    • 12 July, 2011 / 9:50 pm

      Hi Joanna! Bad luck on still hvaing to wait four years for school :-)

      I’d love to meet up sometime if you want to email me?

  2. 12 July, 2011 / 11:49 am

    Welcome to Bristol! I’ve been based here since last year so still a relative newbie, also a single mum of a nearly 6 year old, foolishly volunteered for chair of PTA in first few months and a former fundraiser…and we moved house (though within Bristol) just 2 weeks ago. Spooky! If it’s not too peculiar, feel free to get in touch for a coffee.

    Am sure it won’t be long before you’ve got loads of playground buddies. I sent an email re drinks to our class and got 6 replies, we’ve been getting together regularly since – an eclectic self-selecting bunch of mums bound together by a love (or at least tolerance) of cheap pub wine.

    • 12 July, 2011 / 9:54 pm

      Hi Sarah, I don’t think it’s weird at all, I love randomly meeting people from the internet :-)

      I’m really hoping I don’t come away from my first meeting as the chair!

      Email me and let’s have a date…

  3. 12 July, 2011 / 11:51 am

    Offer to do the newsletter. It is always the job that no-one wants to do, and you’ll get to meet people, plus it won’t be too arduous for you as a journalist. In fact with a Word template and the ability to use grammar you’ll amaze and stun everyone. Just be careful. I now do the newsletter. Fundraise. And chair the PTFA …

    • 12 July, 2011 / 9:55 pm

      Oh no, now you’ve said that, I know that’s EXACTLY what I’m going to do! D’oh! Either that or I’ll promise to write a Big Lottery application by next week or similar. Oh dear oh dear…

  4. Vicky Nunes
    12 July, 2011 / 12:11 pm

    The school playground scares me too! All the little groups of mums that I never quite fit perfectly into. I think attending the PTFA meeting is actually a really good idea (despite it also sounding like my idea of hell), it will definitely get you in the mummy circle! Good luck and congrats on your new home!

    • 12 July, 2011 / 9:59 pm

      Well quite, I’m not going to mess around trying to figure how who the cool mums – I’m going straight in…

      It reminds me a bit of when I went into the second year of my degree. That was at UWE in Bristol, but I’d done the first year at my local college, what with having a toddler and only being 19 at the time. I was terrified that everyone would have got to know each other so well in the first year that I’d have no chance of coming in half way through and making any friends, so I just sort of pretended… I would just go into lectures and start chatting to people like I knew them. It was only much later that I found out most people didn’t know each other at all, as all the groups had got mixed up, and actually quite a lot of people were intimidated by me because I seemed so confident and like I knew everybody!

      So that’s going to be my plan – pretend to know everybody, and hope that the people I talk to are too polite to stop me and say ‘I’m sorry, WHO are you?’

  5. 12 July, 2011 / 12:56 pm

    It’s a lot like dating, finding friends when you’re a grown up I reckon and just as daunting. We moved just over a year ago and it was well scary but you just have to put yourself out there, ask for phone numbers and be bold. Give it a few weeks and I bet you have one person who can do cake and coffee with. It’s exciting! p.s Bee sounds just like my niece, big boobs, dark hair and no idea how gorgeous she is.

    • 12 July, 2011 / 10:01 pm

      You’re absolutely right Caroline, I always think that – it’s that same weird game at the beginning isn’t it – can I ask for a number? How soon should I call? What should we do for a first ‘date’? It’s slightly more complicated though, because you can’t even just think ‘ah sod it, I’ll just sleep with them and seal the deal’. Not unless I REALLY want to cause a stir at my first PTFA meeting.

  6. 12 July, 2011 / 1:28 pm

    I know what you mean having moved 350 miles to a new town! My kids went to school and met other kids quick – DD took a while to have a “friend” but she is settled now. I found going to church helped – I know that isn’t for everyone but plenty of people go even as non-Christians as its a safe place to meet people who generally love to make newbies welcome!

    Good luck :-)

    • 12 July, 2011 / 10:03 pm

      Blimey, that IS brave – I’ve only moved about 30 miles down the road, I have nothing to complain about really!

      I do have a few Buddhist centres nearby – I could always go there, make friends AND find enlightenment. Two birds, one stone and all that.

  7. 13 July, 2011 / 2:04 pm

    Oh I like your Buddhism idea, I have always fancied that religion as it seems quite friendly!

    What’s the F in PTFA? We have a PSA (Parent Staff Association) but I’m wondering what the F?

    I am so on your wavelength with making new friends. I did a lot of moving around in my 20s so had to make new friends and when Madeleine started school I had to make new friends with the school mums and now with toddler groups (count yourself lucky to miss that one) with Floriana. I hate that uncertain first bit where you say stuff which your friends would laugh at, or at least grown at, or they would just know what you were talking about. But with new people you have to explain yourself quite a lot. I would just try to focus on a couple of mums and try not to be a social butterfly. I make the mistake of fluttering off to the next colourful flower (read mum) only to lose the attention of the other one and coming across as probably a bit flighty? I read How to win friends and influence people at the beginning of school and it was actually really helpful and I found people were calling my name to catch up and chat (love that). I soon forgot it all but I did get some nice friends!

    Do you have a gym or similar place you could go to meet local people?

    • 13 July, 2011 / 4:37 pm

      I have no idea about the F – it was always just PTA when I was at school! Maybe it’s something like ‘friends’ or ‘family’ so try and make it sound all lovely and inclusive? I will ask at the meeting tomorrow if you like :-)

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