I can still remember it so clearly, the first time I decided to venture out to a baby group with my son. I was so unbelievably nervous. I’ve always been a shy person and so the thought of walking in to a room full of people I didn’t know and somehow trying to start up a conversation with them was just terrifying!
But, I had no Mum friends at that point, so took a deep breath and made myself do it. And, honestly, that first time wasn’t that great. I found it really hard, and had to force myself to go back a few weeks later. But after that, it got easier and the people I met at that first baby group are still good friends of mine now which I’m so happy about. We saw each other through the really hard times of being a new, first-time parent and are still around now to help each other through the hard times. Especially now several of us have had a second child.
So, if you’re a new parent and sort of want to venture into the world of baby groups but are really scared by the idea of it, I would really encourage you to go for it. It’s so worth those scary, uneasy moments!
Here are some tips, some science-backed, some just based on my own experience, that might help you take that first step into the world of baby groups!
Take someone with you.
Now, if you’re going to a group with the aim of meeting new people and making new Mum friends, then taking someone with you might not seem like the best idea, as you may well end up spending the whole time just chatting together. But, if you’re really shy and nervous, having someone you know there with you might be enough to get you through the door. Then once you’ve done that, you may well feel brave enough next time to go in alone.
Have a hug before you go in.
If you do take someone with you, try giving them a big hug just before you go in the door. Or, if it’s your partner or someone you’re close to, try holding their hand on the way there. If you’re going by yourself, then get your baby out and hold them close to you as you walk in the door. All of these actions release oxytocin into your blood stream which is a really good thing! Research from Concordia University has shown that oxytocin can help introverts in social situations because “under the effects of oxytocin, a person can perceive themselves as more extroverted, more open to new ideas and more trusting”. So get those hugs in!
Ditch the car.Try walking to the group if you can. There are two reasons for this, the first is that walking releases oxytocin, just like hugging does, and the more of that the better when you’re feeling nervous! The second reason is that walking to the group will give you time to calm yourself. You won’t be worrying about whether or not there’ll be enough parking when you get there, you can just relax and take the time to reassure yourself that it’ll be ok.
Listen to some soothing music.
If you do decide to take the car (maybe that option is less stressful to you than pushing a heavy buggy all the way there!), then try listening to some soothing music as you drive. Studies have found that doing this can, say it with me, release more oxytocin into your bloodstream! Marvellous!
Use your baby to break the ice.
One of the great things about baby groups is that you have a natural ice-breaker with you! You don’t have to worry about awkwardly starting up a conversation about the weather, you can open with a simple ‘how old is he?’. You’ll find that other Mums are more than happy to answer questions about their babies, I mean, who doesn’t love talking about their kids!
Get people’s names!
One thing I would highly recommend though, is to make sure that when you do get chatting with someone you ask them what their name is, and not just their baby’s name! I speak from experience. I spent far too long calling people ‘so and so’s Mum’, then it just gets to a point when it’s almost embarrassing to ask! So get in there early, ask for their name and then use it in conversation with them so it has a better chance of sticking in your sleep-deprived mind!
If at first you don’t succeed…
Try, try again. And then try a different group! You might find that the first time you go to a group it all feels a bit awkward and you don’t really talk to anyone. If this happens, take a deep breath and try again. It might take a few visits for you to warm up enough to start chatting to people, and also once you’ve been a few times people will start to recognise you and chat more with you. If you really don’t like the first group you try though, have a look around at the other ones that are available in your area.
If you find the free-play sort of groups really intimidating then try going to a class or activity-based group instead. Rhyme time sessions at the local library are a great free option, and there are all sorts of baby massage classes, baby signing classes, arts and crafts for toddlers sessions, and music classes that you could look into. You might find that the activity helps you relax more so that you can start to chat more easily with the other mums.
So, there you have it, my advice to other shy parents who are working up the courage to venture out into the world of baby groups! I really hope it helps, and that you end up enjoying these kind of groups as much as I’ve enjoyed them over the last 5 years. If you have any other advice or related stories then please do leave me a comment, I’d love to hear what you have to say!