Liam invited me over to play,” your five-year-old says. Great! Except you don’t know Liam’s last name and you haven’t met his parents. You don’t even know how to contact them — in fact you know few parents from your child’s class.
“Knowing other school parents is important for the safety and well-being of your child,” says Karen Acton, a principal in Guelph, Ont. “You want to feel comfortable sending your child to someone else’s house to play. Plus, you’re more aware of homework, assignments and classroom happenings.”
Besides, being able to call another classroom parent can be sanity saving. “If my son forgets his science book at school, I can call up another mom and borrow her kid’s,” says Jill Bernhard, a mom in Guelph, Ont. Keen to connect? Try these field-tested tips:
Host a parent party
Because Leanne Teston of London, Ont., used before- and after-school child care for her daughter, she never saw parents in the schoolyard. “I felt very unaware of what was happening at school,” she says. To take charge, she hosted a party for moms of girls
in her daughter’s class. Another well-connected mom helped out by handling the invitations. “I had no idea who would show up,” Teston says. Happily, 10 women arrived and enjoyed “an evening of laughs.” They continued to meet every six weeks to stay in touch — usually at a neighbourhood pub.
Send a note
To get to know a classmate’s parents, you need to have their contact information. “Because of privacy regulations, teachers can’t give out a child’s phone number,” says Acton. But you can give out yours. Send a note to school with your child to give to his friend, inviting him to a playdate.
“When a new school friend comes over, I often invite the parents in for coffee,” says Kim MacKay-Hoogkamp, a teacher and mom of three.
Attend school events
As often as you can, attend the school open house, meet-the-teacher night or class special events. “You’ll always bump into other parents,” says Acton. To help out, once a year, MacKay-Hoogkamp holds a mixer for the parents of her students. Her students put on a show, and the parents enjoy some treats and mingling afterward.
Make friends by foot
“Even when I was pregnant or taking kids by stroller and toboggan, we’ve always walked to school,” says Bernhard. If you’re able to, says the mom of three, “it’s a great way to meet people.” Now Bernhard is part of a network of about 10 families who mingle daily in the schoolyard.
Join the parent-teacher association or attend a meeting. You’ll clue in to school issues and always meet other parents. After Teston joined her daughter’s school council, she even spearheaded a hot lunch program.
Can’t regularly volunteer? Try to commit to one event instead. “Parents make connections on field trips, at bake sales and at after-school programs,” says Susan Hoad-Reddick, a teacher in Elora, Ont.
If you’re shy, says Teston, “chances are other parents are feeling the exact same way you are. Now I have other parents I can call if my daughter says something happened in class. I’m much less stressed about school, so my daughter is happier too.”