for release September 21, 2001
by Melodie Davis
NOTE TO EDITORS:
This is the 2nd part of the 3-part series: "New in the Neighborhood."
Finding Friends in a New Neighborhood
I'll never forget the welcome our next-door neighbors gave us when we moved into our current home 24 years ago. We were carrying things into the house when the wife jaunted over to our sidewalk, introduced herself, welcomed us to the neighborhood, and offered to help in any way she could. They had only moved in themselves a week earlier, but it was wonderful to have the ice broken.
This reminds me of my daughter's successful "newcomer" strategy when she went to college. She had always thought of herself as shy or on the reserved side in terms of meeting new people, but she pushed herself at college to make the first move and introduce herself to people. "I tell kids to really make an effort to meet people in the first week or two, otherwise the circles of friends get established and it is harder to break in."
She also had good advice when suffering later on from temporary loneliness or blues when it seemed like everyone else in the dorm had either gone home for the weekend, or was out busy doing something. "I told myself to suck it up and go down the hall till I found someone. I knocked on a door where I heard a TV, we talked and found out we had been to some of the same places, and ended up watching a movie together."
These are two good tips for meeting new people-whether it is at school or in a new neighborhood: 1. Make the first move. 2. Swallow your loneliness and get out and do something.
My neighbor moved 15 miles away this summer and she remains a cherished friend. Just as she had with us, she wasted no time in stopping to talk to a neighboring family, saying she and her husband would be the new neighbors in the house at the end of the lane. A little boy peered intently into her vehicle, and asked the magic question (for kids): "Do you have any kids?"
Children somehow seem to break the ice and make it easier to get to know new neighbors. Children always make a move more interesting-if also more exhausting and trying. One family moved from North Carolina to Minnesota, and the father had to move before the rest of the family. Mom, sons ages 2, 3 and 4, plus a dog flew to join him ten days later. The mother recalled finding out at O'Hare in Chicago that she had to physically reclaim the dog (a German Shepherd) in baggage in order to transfer him to another air carrier, and then shepherd her own 3 preschoolers through the airport (all in the space of 63 minutes). Any woman who can pull that off can probably survive whatever it takes to get acclimated in a new neighborhood. Here are some tips by seasoned movers on getting acquainted in a new community:
* Use your computer to try and make friends in your new community before you get there. Use discussion lists, boards or referrals to find out names of people in your new community who belong to the same club, religious group or organization.
* In moving away, help your children plan ways to keep in contact with old friends: take a notebook or address book and have friends put in their address, phone and e-mail address.
* Allow yourself and your children time to grieve your losses, and feel sad.
* Don't wait for the neighbors to invite you over. As soon as you are settled, invite someone over for a potluck, cookout, or just dessert.
* Check out newspapers or fliers for local organizations to join. Activities are the best way to meet new people beyond your neighbors. Sign up for a class, hobby, or exercise group.
* Make connections with the people you or your spouse work with: invite them over, go out for dinner or lunch together, have the kids get together to play, arrange carpools for chauffeuring kids.
* Join the PTA and get involved at your child's school. Go beyond attending meetings by volunteering to work on a committee or hold a position.
* Encourage your children to get involved in activities in the new neighborhood and school.
* Do like your mother always advised: to have a friend, be a friend.
Settling in might take a little while. But the more things you and the children can do and people you meet in the new community, the better you'll start to feel.
For a free booklet, "Journeying Through Loneliness," write to: Melodie Davis, Another Way c/o Name\Address of YOUR newspaper; or e-mail: Melodie@mennomedia.org.
You can also visit Another Way on the Web at www.thirdway.com.
Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from a number of organizations including the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three growing daughters.
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