How to Socialize With Fellow Parents When You’re an Introvert

Two parents talk while having coffee

Not only are we supposed to teach our kids how to make friends, but then we have to make friends with these kids’ parents. Who knew?

I knew that, as a parent, I would have to teach my kids many things: how to eat solid foods, how to use the potty, how to speak and walk, and to not scream “MORE FRENCH FRIES!!!” from the backseat when I’m ordering lunch in the drive-thru. But now that my oldest child is in school, it’s come to my attention that there’s something I hadn’t considered, especially as an introverted mom

Apparently, we’re supposed to teach our kids how to make friends and socialize, and we’re supposed to coordinate playdates for them with other parents. But this means we then have to socialize with other parents. Did you know that? Who knew that? And why didn’t I know this when I started having kids? I feel like there should have been a module for this in my birthing class: “Introverted Parents 101: Learning How to Socialize With Your Kids’ Friends’ Parents.”

I’m accepting the fact that I’ll eventually have to talk to the other moms at school drop-off and pick-up, and actually ask them if their kid would want to play with mine (or, hope of all hopes, one of them asks me first so I can avoid the anxious full-body sweat I’ll be pretending doesn’t exist when I initiate that first conversation). 

I also realize that, as parents, introverted or otherwise, sometimes we have to do things we don’t want to do for the sake of our children. Okay, Universe, I’m ready to step up and model healthy social skills. Now what? How do I teach my kid to do something that I’m not very good at? (And something that I actually don’t even really enjoy?)

As all good introverts do, I hit the books and started reading and collecting all the wisdom of other introverted moms who have gone before. (Turns out, I’m not the only one shaking in my boots about showing my child what it looks like to make new friends.) Here are a few tips to help you (us) navigate the social waters of childrearing. 

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5 Tips for Socializing With Fellow Parents as an Introvert

1. Admit that it’s hard — to both yourself and your child.

There’s really no use in pretending. Do yourself a favor and just admit that this is hard. Even a piece in the The New York Times acknowledges that “finding parent friends can be just as fraught and unnerving as dating.” Just thinking about dating as an introvert makes me a little queasy. Sometimes saying the quiet part out loud — like things we usually keep to ourselves, maybe because we feel embarrassed — makes things feel a little easier. 

Talking about the challenges of making friends is also a great way to connect with your little one if they’re nervous about it or venturing out to a playdate. Admitting that sometimes we get nervous, too, can help them feel less alone and makes all those big feelings seem not so overwhelming (for us and them). This can be a great way to open up a line of communication with them that can last a lifetime. 

2. Set boundaries ahead of time — i.e., set an end time.

If you’re setting up a playdate, set boundaries and give yourself a definite end time. There’s nothing worse than being at a social event and not knowing how to get yourself out of it, feeling like there’s no escape. I love what Joan McFadden has to say in this piece about dealing with other parents and socializing: “Be wonderfully sociable, chat to lots of parents, enthuse about the event, and slide off after an hour.” 

So, decide ahead of time how long you feel comfortable hanging out and at what point you’ll want to pack it up and go home. You can blame it on little Johnny needing a nap at 1 p.m. — or you really needing to get those errands run by lunchtime. 

In all honesty, any reason is reason enough to draw a definite line and say you need to leave. Sometimes we’re all just waiting for one person to call it and say it’s time to go. 

3. Don’t reinvent the wheel — keep things simple.

Don’t reinvent the wheel here or make things more complicated than they need to be. Take a pointer from Gabriela Garcia, who suggests volunteering at your child’s school. I know it might feel counterintuitive, but using the existing social structure to help connect can create a no-pressure way of getting face time with other moms. 

When I first saw the 274 sign-up sheets for volunteer opportunities at my daughter’s school during orientation, it felt like all my parenting momentum immediately stopped in its tracks. You mean, I have to show up here, too?!

But guess what? I recently volunteered at my daughter’s school holiday party and it allowed me to chat one-on-one with another mom who I’d seen every day at drop-off, but had never said hello to (yet). Now it feels much less awkward to approach her about getting our kids together outside of school. 

By meeting fellow parents at school events, you’ll have an easy in to set up play-dates and get to know them. (Just hope they start the conversation, of course!) 

Do you ever struggle to know what to say?

As an introvert, you actually have the ability to be an amazing conversationalist — even if you’re quiet and hate small talk. To learn how, we recommend this online course from our partner Michaela Chung. Click here to check out the Introvert Conversation Genius course.

4. Lean into your introvert superpowers, like excelling at meaningful conversations. 

Okay, so small talk and general socializing with our kid’s friends’ parents doesn’t exactly sound like the best part of parenting. But the chance to sit and talk with another mom about things we have in common (hello, our kids and motherhood and all the things that come with it) and feel connected to someone other than another tiny little human does actually kind of sound nice. 

It’s not that introverts don’t like people; we just crave more meaningful connections than can be found in the pick-up line at school. We can lean into our need for meaning and create an environment where our kids see us making those connections. 

If your child is also an introvert, this can be a powerful life lesson for them, as well. After all, they learn more from what they see us do than from all the things we tell them to do. 

5. Choose your friends wisely — you’ll connect with some better than others.

It’s not a competition and there’s no award for “most social parent of the year.” (Leave that to the extroverts!) You’re allowed to choose your friends wisely (another great lesson for the kiddos). 

Not really into the dad who insists on backing the minivan into the corner parking spot every morning or the mom who can’t remember your name even after meeting you countless number of times? Smile, wave, and keep going.

You don’t have to be friends or socialize with everyone. Find someone who “gets” you, who you feel comfortable with, and start there. Yes, sometimes our kids tend to lead the way, and if they become friends with Mr. Minivan-Must-Be-Backed-In-Only dad’s kid, well, that’s a lesson for another day. But for the most part, we can be adults and lead by taking the first step in connecting with the people we feel drawn to. 

At the End of the Day, Practice Makes Perfect

I might have been jarred by the realization that I would actually have to talk to my kid’s friend’s parents, let alone hang out with them from time-to-time. But the more I tap into my introvert strengths, the easier it is to navigate social interactions in a way that doesn’t, well, completely suck for me. 

I know I’m not the only one who has gone (or is going through) this, and, odds are, I’m not the only introverted parent in my daughter’s class. I’ll find my people in time. Hopefully, as my daughter watches me fumble through, she’ll pick up a few life lessons of her own (even if they are mostly how-not-to-do-it lessons).

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