I remember the days of meeting people through my children playing at the playground, eating dirt (hey, it happens), school field trips, the bus stop, after school activities, and anywhere kids were present.
The bus stop is the hot spot for meeting moms for school-aged kids.
Now as a mother of tweens and a teen myself…
It’s not that simple.
We’re not walking our children to the bus stop, and the kids barely leave the house. (Come on, please say I’m not the only one saying, “go walk around our new neighborhood and meet some new friends.”)
And when we do pick them up from activities, it’s rare to have interaction with other parents because our kids want and need a bit of independence. Even though we are involved in their lives, we are not hanging out at practice or after-school activities.
It can feel lonely parenting teens and tweens.
Tweens and teens want us to sit in the car, wait and NOT strike up any “embarrassing” conversation with a potential friend’s parent. And if your teenager is driving, it’s even harder because the need for you to get out of the house decreases.
We’re not there yet, but I can’t wait for the day to hand over the keys and errand list.
As mothers, we worry about our kids making friends when we PCS to a new duty station. All of our emphasis goes to our children about building great relationships and being comfortable in their new environment.
We forget about ourselves.
And ladies, we need to develop relationships with other moms. We need those friendships to help us through deployments, long days and hey, through teen years.
Moms of tweens and teens need one another to bounce parenting issues around just as we did during the baby and toddler phase. And to get one another out of the house.
We recently PCS’d to D.C. from Hawaii.
The first few weeks were tough for me hearing about the girls’ day. Being lost in a new school; literally. Sitting alone at lunch. Man, lunch is the time to socialize and to picture them sitting alone tugged at my heart.
That was until one of my girls told me to stop worrying because they will meet people and to focus on making myself some friends. “Girl, I have friends. What are you talking about? Your mom is just fine hanging out at home.”
The reality of those words hit hard.
The truth is, I didn’t have friends at our new duty station, and it was a bit lonely sitting at home all day. I had friends I talked to on the phone, but no one to hang out with. No one to have lunch with or sit on the couch and talk about random things and explore D.C. with.
So, how do you make friends as a military spouse when you move every couple of years and your kids are teenagers?
It’s a different ballgame for sure.
The days of friendships forming because of kids playing together or being in the same class are long gone. In many cases, parents of teens do not ever meet one another. Sure, there may be a quick conversation when the kids want to hang out, go to the mall, etc.
But it’s not the same.
As mom, there’s no real reason that you are tagging along. So, there’s not a built-in friendship between parents.
Don’t worry. You are not alone in trying to build new friendships at your new duty station without the aid of your children. There are plenty of ladies thinking the same way. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. Remember, the kids are watching and learn best by our example.
Here are a few ways I’ve reached out and met some amazing ladies.
1. Your local military Facebook groups.
Make a post saying you have older kids and looking to connect with other ladies. Think about it. We did this or answered a post when our kiddos were younger. As a matter of fact, I just responded to a post like this a couple of weeks ago.
And guess what?
I met some great ladies. We met at a local restaurant for breakfast and laughed for a couple of hours. Even realized that one lady and I were stationed at two previous duty stations at the same time. And we lived in the same neighborhood. Our group is planning more outings and hanging out to talk, explore and have fun.
2. Attend base events.
Your local USO may host networking events once a month. Networking doesn’t just mean you’re looking for business opportunities. This is a great way to meet others and build potential friendships.
3. Check out your local MWR office for activities.
You will find classes, hiking, trips, etc. While living in Hawaii, this was one of my favorite ways of meeting new people and venturing out.
4. Strike up a conversation while you’re out or with a neighbor.
Trust me. There are other moms raising tweens and teens who feel the same way as you. A smile and hello goes a long way.
5. Take a deep breath and walk up to the mom you see at the gym, grocery store, child’s game/performance, even at a military event.
We all have seen someone that we want to get to know. Just walk up and say hi. Give a compliment, let her know she seems like someone you would like to get to know. It sounds crazy, I know.
BUT I’ve met so many amazing women by just saying, “Hi, I’m Sybil. I love your dress.” The conversation starts to flow (sometimes it doesn’t, and that’s ok), we exchange contact information, and a lunch date planned.
We all need friendships.
Friendships are important for survival; it brings love, support, and laughter. Military life throws us curveballs. Parenting teenagers throw even more curveballs.
Step out of your comfort zone and extend an invitation. I promise someone is hoping and waiting for you to say, “hello, would you like to have lunch?”