Connecting with other parents can at times be a challenge in itself. Have you ever gone to a playground at a local park only to find that all the parents were kind of quietly spread out either reading or just watching the kids while all the kids laughed and played together?
Introversion is something that we all struggle with at times, but let’s face it, as parents it is extremely helpful to have some strong community ties, especially with other families and parents! What better resource to get recommendations for where to eat or where the most kid friendly cafe’s are? Who the babysitters of the moment are? Here are some ways to get past that shy parent persona so many of us have taken on and find some unique ways to connect with parents both in person and especially online, because online we can schedule playdates, post reviews, recommendations, and much more!
Ever since becoming a mom, or becoming pregnant I should say almost 6 years ago I have been on at least one parenting mailing list at all times. Sometimes I found them through some of the playground conversations I had, and other times I found them by searching online. I have taken their existence for granted as I have always lived in pretty densely populated urban areas, though through my experiences building a now international online community for moms I know that I am very lucky in this way! Mailing lists are typically used as a way to spread the word, if something happened or is going on in a neighborhood, if someone is selling or more commonly giving some used toys or clothes away, and also for parents who are self employed to offer their services.
If you aren’t on any of these lists I recommend checking on sites like Yahoo for mailing lists, or groups as they call them. First find the parents category and then start searching for your neighborhood. When you find one or two join them and you are on your way to the world of being a very connected parent!
What if I can’t find one?
Make one, from the same site you can create a group for your neighborhood, school or other niche demographic that you are looking to meet more people from (I have for example created many “Moms with MS” groups). When you do this be sure to put some effort into filling out the description and making sure you place it appropriately within a parenting part of the site so that other parents in your niche can find you. Once you have created the list you can promote it by printing out flyer’s to put in local grocery stores, community centers, schools and more!
I want more…
Okay, now we are getting into the bigger projects of creating an actual online community. Once you are familiar with the mailing lists and maybe realize they don’t quite meet your needs, or your sights are simply set higher, you might want to look into creating an online community. There are a lot of options available online for this kind of community, my personal favorite at the moment is Ning which has the option to create a very affordable community that has forums, blogs, and all sorts of applications that can be added to have classifieds and more.
Again I recommend first searching for one, finding other local blogs, websites, and maybe asking people from your mailing list if there is a community site for your niche. If there isn’t then go ahead and make one! To do this I recommend doing the following:
– Register a domain that will represent your community like “ColumbiaCityParents.com”
– Find the application/site (like the Ning site I mentioned) that you want to create your community from
– Create it! Like I said in the mailing list instructions be sure to be as clear and descriptive as possible, this will help people find your site! Repeat important parts like the name of your neighborhood and the word ‘parents’ to increase the visibility
So from here you have got your mailing list and maybe even a community! Have fun with it and be prepared to get lots of questions like “wow how did you do that??” from other parents when you casually drop that there’s a hot new site where parents can connect in your area.
Few more tips
If you want the site to be fully self sufficient you have a wide variety of options to help you pay for it, you can use services like adsense, commission junction, adbrite, as well as setting up affiliate accounts with Amazon and other sites that have products you don’t mind promoting. These all are tools to help you raise funds, even if just a couple pennies at a time to help pay for your community fees which are low but you might as well make it all self sufficient.