Do you remember the last time you made a new friend? Perhaps you were lucky enough to meet other single parents at the park and got chatting, or maybe you hit it off with someone in a Zoom meetup? How did it feel?
Our guess is pretty nerve-wracking, but exciting too. Finding that connection with a potential new friend can be a thrill, but it can also be difficult to know how to turn that spark into a friendship. Where do you even go to meet other single parents? Once you’re there, how do you make the approach? How do you turn that playground connection into something more serious?
We’re going to answer all of these questions and more.
This might not be a question you’d think to ask yourself when you’re looking to make new friends, but it’s actually a really important one as it guides all of your next steps.
Our circumstances change and so it’s to be expected that friendships evolve and that our friendship needs change.
Nicky is a single mum to three kids and although she had a large circle of friends, she realised she still felt lonely. ‘I’d never really thought I needed to make new friends,’ explained Nicky, ‘because I felt like I had plenty – friends from college and uni, friends from work, plus mums that I met during NCT classes. But the more I thought about it, the more I realised that I was missing a particular type of friend. My existing friends were either single or in childless couples, or happily married with families. I realised that since becoming a single parent I’d not made an effort to meet other single parents, I’d just assumed my existing friendship group was enough. They’re all great friends of course, but none of them quite get my life. I didn’t feel like I could intrude on their evenings or weekends for example, when I felt they’d be busy with their own families and relationships.’
Nicky’s experience is not uncommon. A lot of us will have a large number of friends that we’ve collected along the way, but how often do we actively seek out new relationships to play a particular role in our lives? Our circumstances change and so it’s to be expected that friendships evolve and that our friendship needs change too.
Now that you have a clearer idea of what you’re looking for from your new friends, you can be more strategic about where you look for them. If for example you want to make new friends who share a particular hobby or interest like books or painting, then a book group or an art class is the obvious way to go. If you want to meet other single parents near you then parks, play areas and kids’ music classes might be more relevant.
Don’t forget that there will be crossover between these groups – you might meet another single mum at book group, or a single dad at soft play with a love of watercolours, that’s part of the fun of making new friends!
David is a single parent to two daughters, whom he coparents with his ex-wife. ‘A couple of years ago I joined a football group for dads,’ says David. ‘It was one of these groups set up to help dads rediscover exercise and lose a few pounds, but chatting to one of the guys there after the session one day I discovered that he was a single parent too – a widower in fact, with one daughter. The football group was the first thing he’d done for himself in a long time and immediately we had this connection and a shared experience of parenting alone. We ended up becoming really good friends, and luckily our daughters get on well too! It’s made such a difference having him in my life.’
If you particularly want to meet other single parents though, where can you go to find them? Obviously at the time of writing this we’re mid lockdown, and making new friends in the real world is trickier, but we’ve put together some ideas that you can use now and as the world starts to open up again.
Immediately we had this connection and a shared experience of parenting alone.
First and foremost of course there’s the Frolo app. Frolo was created specifically to help single parents meet other single parents for friendship and support, both online and in real life, through group chats, community led meetups and a programme of expert events.
Zoë Desmond, Frolo’s founder, was desperate to meet other single parents when she first separated from her son’s father, but despite searching through social media and single parent Facebook groups she couldn’t find a community that had the right mix of supportive, positive and informative. Zoë created Frolo to fill this gap, creating a community that’s a safe space, an empowering and uplifting place to be, and a genuinely useful resource for single parents.
‘Zoom calls with fellow frolos and experts have been a real saviour for me during lockdown,’ explains Frolo user Vikas. ‘You meet fellow like-minded single parents who are going through what you are too and that makes you feel part of the community. Everyone in the Frolo team is so welcoming and approachable. As a single dad this app is brilliant and I would recommend it to any single parent.’
There are currently over 20,000 single parents throughout the UK and Ireland registered on the Frolo app and an ever growing programme of community and expert meetups. If you’re not using Frolo to meet other single parents yet then download it now.
One of the easiest places to find a whole load of parents is at school or nursery. The downside is that it might not be obvious which ones are single parents, but with nearly 3million households in the UK headed by a lone parent, chances are you’ll run into at least one! Joining committees like the PTA or offering to volunteer at events can be a foot in the door.
Outside of school and nursery, there are still plenty of opportunities to meet other parents, even if it’s just hanging out at the park and getting chatting at the swings. Once the virus restrictions are lifted we’ll be able to enjoy baby and toddler groups, music classes, soft play – there really are a lot of options.
Let people know that you’re looking to meet new single parent friends and ask them to put you in touch with other single parents in the same boat who they think you’d get along with.
You could also check Gingerbread specifically for single parent groups, or search online for single parent groups near you. If you find there really isn’t anything in your area why not think about starting your own group?
Holidays for single parents could be an option if you like to travel and aren’t afraid of being thrown in the deep end and making friends fast, and sites like Single Parents on Holiday cater specifically for people wanting to go on group holidays with other single parents, both in the UK and abroad.
Frolo started as an outlet for me to find people who understood what I was going through and discuss that, but it’s evolved to encompass my whole family.
Frolo users can also use the Frolo app to organise community led meetups in their local area, and there have been loads of brilliant events to date, including a Frolo trip to Camp Bestival, playdates, parents’ nights out and much more.
‘Frolo was a game-changer for me,’ says Rita. ‘I found a lot of strength and power in the single parenthood community. Frolo started as an outlet for me to find people who understood what I was going through and discuss that, but it’s evolved to encompass my whole family. We go on playdates, we have BBQs, we meet up in the park – we have a group of frolos who are an extension of our family. My boys see those kids as their frolo siblings and I’m so grateful there’s this community that is reshaping what it means to grow up in a single parent family.’
And finally, don’t forget to ask existing friends, family and colleagues for introductions – let people know that you’re looking to meet new single parent friends and ask them to put you in touch with other single parents in the same boat who they think you’d get along with.
When it comes to dating, there’s a pretty widely accepted formula about how things are meant to progress. With friendships though, there isn’t quite the same roadmap, and so turning that chance encounter at baby signing class into a genuine friendship can sometimes feel like quite a scary proposition.
So how do you really make friends? How do you evolve from a ‘hello’ at the school gates to sharing a bottle of wine in the garden?
Often it’s as simple as just putting on your best brave face and making the first move. Remember that the other person is likely feeling just as nervous and will probably be grateful to you for taking the lead.
If you’re making contact with someone through social media then it’s as simple as reaching out to them via a message or a comment – most people absolutely love getting messages and compliments, so if you enjoy a post, let them know! Let the conversation develop naturally over time. If they aren’t local it may be that they remain as someone you can chat with online, or if they’re nearby and you’ve been messaging for a while, you could always suggest a coffee or a walk sometime. Many a friendship has been formed on social media and developed into something in real life and you’ve got very little to lose!
If you aren’t being your authentic self, how are you ever going to be able to form a genuine connection?
If you’re trying to develop a friendship with a single parent you’ve met in person, then just be honest. Saying something like ‘you know, I really enjoy chatting to you, do you fancy getting a coffee sometime?’ is actually a massive compliment and is a nice, simple way to start the journey of friendship.
This is such an important one when it comes to making new friends or forming romantic relationships, because if you aren’t being your authentic self, how are you ever going to be able to form a genuine connection?
Don’t be afraid to go deep and get personal quite quickly – sharing deeper and more intimate conversation is a great way to form a bond, and showing any sort of vulnerability can really help to fast track a friendship.
Making new friends takes times, and let’s face it, that’s something a lot of single parents don’t have. With this in mind, you may need to be a bit more persistent initially to keep the friendship ball rolling. Little things like following up with a message after a meet up can help.
Keep putting yourself out there and the friendships that are meant to stick will.
‘I started hanging out with a single mum I met at school,’ says Sandra, ‘and after every coffee she’d WhatsApp me a little message just to say that she’d had a great time and had particularly enjoyed chatting about X, Y and Z. It was a really small thing but it was so nice to know she’d really listened and been engaged – it made me feel special and kept her in my mind. Five years on and we’re really good friends now and speak most days.’
Not everyone you take an initial shine to is going to turn out to be your new best friend. Often this is nothing at all to do with you – it might be that the other person just has too much going on in their lives, they’re distracted by something, or maybe you just don’t connect as well as you initially thought.
Try not to take any of this personally. If a friendship doesn’t work out and you stop hearing from someone, it’s okay. Keep putting yourself out there and the friendships that are meant to stick will.
We hope this has given you a bit of inspiration to get out and meet single parents near you and build yourself a single parent support network – making new friends can be so rewarding and open you up to all kinds of new experiences, so stick at it, keep an open mind and most importantly, have fun!