By Laura Schofield, USMC Spouse
“There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven’t met yet.” – William Yeats
I recently asked my seven-year-old where he liked to make friends. He just replied, “Everywhere I go.”
It seems a simple answer to my question, but he is right, he really does love meeting new people.
Ways a Military Brat Makes Friends
It inevitably happens with every military PCS, both outgoing and shy kids can struggle with a lack of friends at a new duty. Friendships and building community are such an important part of this military lifestyle and it can be an overwhelming part of moving.
It’s often hard to know where to start helping your kids, and maybe yourself, to make new friends. If school classrooms are not an option, maybe your kids are too young or home-schooled like mine, here are some of our favorite ways to make new friends.
#1 Military Housing and On Base Activities
If you live on or near a military base, check with the community center to see the list of activities that are available to your kids. Our base offers a variety of things from swim camps during the summer, to dance classes, to karate, to even family fun runs. It should be easy to find a list of all the activities offered on a regular basis by calling or stopping by your base’s community center. We have also found out about a lot of fun activities by following our base on Facebook and by paying attention to the reader boards located around the installation.
One of the reasons I love meeting friends on base is that it is usually close to home, so less time driving. And most of the families that attend these classes also live on base, which means super close for play dates. It also helps my kids to break the ice of a new friendship when you already know that you have at least one thing in common with someone else, even if it is just the activity you are doing at the moment.
#2 Play Groups for a Military Brat
If you belong to a Spouses Club, check to see if they have any sort of playgroup or home-school group. It can be a great starting place for meeting new people in your area that are in similar situations with kids of similar ages. Many playgroups meet at nearby playgrounds or rotate houses, so it’s very welcoming and cozy. Playgroups are also great for parents; this is where I have met some of my closest friends.
#3 Off Base Activities
If you need a break from your military installation, looking out into the surrounding community can be a great place to meet people. Library systems often have reading groups, especially during the summer, and are almost always free.
Park systems also often have free summertime events, or other low-cost activities such as soccer, running clubs, or cheer.
#4 Playgrounds and Parks
For my military brats, finding playgrounds close to our house and just playing for a little bit is a great way to meet families that live nearby. Although meeting new friends at playgrounds may be intimidating for shy kids, often, another outgoing military brat will recognize a new kid and work to include them. Some of our local playgrounds have daily nerf-gun battles, which is a great way to help your kid who may not be talkative, join in with the crowd.
#5 Chapel-based Groups
If this is an option for you, calling the chapel to see what groups they have that meet throughout the week is a great place for everyone in your family to meet new friends. Many programs like MOPS (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers) or Women of the Chapel groups have meeting times for moms with childcare provided for both young children and school-aged children.
This suggestion may seem the most obvious, but it is my favorite way for my kids to make new friends! Mostly because it almost always means I get to make a new mama-friend as well. PCSing doesn’t just mean my kids have to start over with friendships. Getting to know our neighbors has been the best part of our most recent PCS, and we will miss them all greatly. Neighbors are a great chance to mix up the age groups a little bit: my kids are all very close in age, so they aren’t around babies or older kids very much. Neighbors are a good reminder of one aspect that makes this military life so unique: the community.
For suggestions for tweens and teens to make new friends click here.
Whether your kids are home-schooled or not, or you are the one PCSing or the family staying behind, I hope the future is filled with lots of new friendships!
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