Breaking into a New Playgroup

Here are some common complaints of playgroup visitors: "I never really felt comfortable." "It seemed like everyone already knew each other." "No one made me feel welcome."

As a recovering shy person myself, I too have felt unwelcome and uncomfortable in groups. It can be difficult to break into a new group sometimes. However, I have discovered in my own experiences and observed from “successful” and “unsuccessful” new members that fitting in with a playgroup is largely up to the individual. Indeed, whenever I made the extra effort, my children and I fit in much quicker and more easily. With the goal of making new friends and letting others know that you are committed to the group, here are certain actions which will help you and your children break into a new group more easily.

Go to playgroup every week. Make it a priority. Don't let anything, except illness, interfere with going to playgroup on playgroup morning. You are likely to be remembered if others see you on a regular basis, and their names and faces will become recognizable to you much sooner. Besides, it is too easy to get out of the routine of attending playgroup. If you start missing a playgroup date here and there, before you know it, you won't be regulars anymore. Playgroups often evolve over time; if you go regularly, you will be part of those changes. Otherwise, you are likely to be uncomfortable with the changes and the playgroup won't “fit” anymore.

Arrive early. It is easier for you to start talking with only one or two other adults than it is to approach a group of adults. It's the same with your children. It's easier for them to make friends with just one or two kids before all the children have arrived than to try to join a group once the games and activities have begun.

Participate in as many other activities as possible. Sign up for the field trips, go on the moms' nights out, host an upcoming playdate, volunteer for the annual fund raiser or service project. When there is a group effort to help someone out, such as taking meals to a new mom, sign up even if you do not know the person. Active participation will establish you and your family not only as part of the playgroup but also as part of the community.

Don't give up just because the group does not fit perfectly. For example, there will likely be parents with radically different discipline methods; you do not have to agree with them. Similarly, you do not have to find a group that uses only cloth diapers or exclusively breastfeeds. Although you may be fortunate enough to find a like-minded group, you will expand your mind when you learn from those who are different from you. Friendships do not require that you have everything in common. Besides, not everyone has to be your friend.

In short, breaking into a new group requires tenacity and perseverance. Granted, playgroup members should be welcoming to all newcomers, but unfortunately, they often are not. Perhaps they are simply not focused on the visitors, or maybe they are just not as welcoming as the newcomer wants, or perhaps their idea of welcoming is different from the newcomer's. In any case, breaking into a new group will take some effort on your part, but if you make the effort, it will be worth it. I promise you, you and your children will make friends.

About the Author:
A homeschooling mom of four children, Carren W. Joye is the author of A Stay-at-Home Mom's Complete Guide to Playgroups (ISBN 0-595-14684-8) and Homeschooling More Than One Child: A Practical Guide for Families (ISBN 0-595-34259-0). In addition to starting four successful playgroups, she has founded a regional homeschool support group and helped start countless other playgroups around the world via the Internet.