Our family is relatively new to Florida. It was July 2017 when we unloaded the POD and realized quickly that, despite the Washington, DC area being known for its heat and humidity, this was a whole new ballgame. Lift a chair and you sweat. Set the chair down and you just keep sweating.
Thankfully, we had family who travelled to help unpack for our new lives in Florida. My wife was sure we moved to paradise, being just minutes from Clearwater Beach. It was a great week setting up, exploring the area, and especially heading to the beach together as a family.
Then the out of town family left.
It’s safe to say we underestimated the challenge of moving to a place where we had no family or friends or any connections at all really. Having two kids under the age of 3 meant we were playing on difficulty level HARD, to say the least.
Making friends during the parenting stage of life isn’t the easiest thing in the world. Everybody seems to have their routine already in place and adding new people to the mix can throw things off. We’re all so busy with jobs and running the house that committing extra effort towards making a connection with a new person can seem like too much work. Aren’t our plates busy enough as it is?
It didn’t take long for us to realize, we really can’t do this on our own.
Social connection is the lifeblood of humanity, and we were struggling to find it despite spending (too much) time on social media.
Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, Snapchat, FaceTime. There are more ways than ever to connect with people these days. If you see a recipe that I’d like, you don’t need to wait a month until we bump into each other at the grocery store, you just text me the link. But seeing your nephews grow up through Instagram pictures isn’t quite the same as getting to wrestle with them in person.
In spite of having a million and one ways to communicate, it’s easy to feel more disconnected than ever from the people we care about. We text each other instead of calling. We allow Facebook comments to stand in for coffee dates. We compare others’ highlight reels to our behind the scenes bloopers.
While it’s great being able to see what your tangential connections from high school are up to these days, we’re losing some of the emotional connection in our relationships. Texting “I love you” to your spouse just isn’t the same as saying it while embracing and gazing into their eyes. Let’s resolve to use social media to complement our real-life connections rather than supplement them!
But for those folks like us in a new town, social media can also help maintain old connections and find resources to develop new friendships!
- You can’t depend on others to reach out – It may be terrifying to make the first move (this sounds like I’m talking about dating ha!), but take the leap and invite, invite, invite. We tend to be more shy and introverted, so this has been a challenge. But even when the meetings haven’t turned into long-term friendships, they have been rewarding.
- People are busy, so several declined offers doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t interested – Piggybacking on the first lesson, try not to get too discouraged when people aren’t able to accept your invitations. You’re trying to break into established routines and once you do, it will get easier.
- Communicate regularly with your support system, no matter how far away they are – Since you don’t have new friends yet, lean on those people you can trust. They may not be close enough for a hug, but FaceTime and Skype make virtual hugs a little less awkward. Feeling socially isolated can increase stress levels and lead to depression, so it’s important to be open with those who care.
- Take advantage of the positive aspects of online connection (e.g. Meetup.com, Facebook parenting groups, Facebook church groups, Tampa Bay Moms Group etc.) – Social media isn’t all bad! It makes it easier to find others who share similar interests, or may be in the same situation as you. Again, put yourself out there and attend events to get face time and begin making connections.
- Be patient, it’s a marathon and not a sprint – If you’re planning on sticking around the area for awhile, you are going to want quality friendships. If it takes awhile to find people you truly want to open up with, it will be worthwhile when you need support (hopefully a long time down the road).
- Say yes whenever you can, even if you don’t feel like it – Unless you’re already booked, or it will really screw up your kids’ nap schedule, say yes to every event possible. Finding friends, like dating, is a numbers game. You need to meet a bunch of people to find the few who will fit with you.
- Change your mindset – You have the opportunity to organically develop friendships that fit with your current stage of life. You aren’t stuck with toxic friends just because they’ve been there for years. You don’t need to try and make awkward small talk with a friend whose life path or values have diverged from your own. You can have a list of traits you’re looking for (or that you’d like to avoid) so your future friend cohort will fit perfectly. Perceiving the situation as an opportunity for growth rather than sad loneliness can make all the difference in your mental health.
I love to give a happy ending to the tale, but that’s still a work in progress. We’re still learning lessons and building a social network. But we’re taking our own advice and reaching out more consistently and starting to hopefully see the beginning of what will eventually blossom into friendships. If you’re in a similar boat or want to share your own experience as a newbie in Florida, I’d love to hear from you. And if the process seems too overwhelming and stress inducing, then please reach out for a consultation. I would love to chat with you about paths that might be most helpful for you!