Six connections can reduce loneliness
The neighbourhood app Nextdoor, commissioned a global study on kindness in December 2020. It found that as few as six neighbours reduces the likelihood of loneliness. Given that our own Classlist survey showed parents trust school parents more than their neighbours, there is a strong case that this number applies equally to school communities.
Loneliness is increasing due to the rise in working from home. And the weakening of work colleague networks. For some these ties are not just weakened but severed by redundancy. With many having to start again, reinvent themselves. To rely on other networks such as the school community. And strengthen ‘weak ties’ as so famously described by Stanford Professor Mark Granovetter.
Strengthening ‘weak ties’
Ties that parents sorely need. Many parents are coping with juggling homeschooling and work at the same time. According to the Financial Times, more working mums in particular are without work. Making new connections and ties vital for both emotional and financial reasons.
How Parent Associations can help
Traditionally at this time of year parent associations are busily arranging a calendar of social events including a finale of a leaver’s ball and a summer fair. Instead we are seeing parent associations acting as a conduit for the school to disseminate and share resources for homeschooling. Although this saves the school time and provides practical support for parents; it doesn’t address the issue of loneliness. There is no substitute for instance for school gate interaction. That for some, is a rare opportunity for an adult conversation. Or moral support for dealing with teenagers. Who are in turn, struggling to cope with uncertainty around exams; social media usage; excessive gaming; and not seeing their friends in person.
Four Easy Ways to Tackle Loneliness in Your School
1. Build relationships slowly and focus on those members that need you most
Groups that will really appreciate you reaching out:
- 2020 New parents: that had children that started school in the last year – yes they have never been fully integrated.
- 2021 New parents: with children starting in 2021. These times of transition are unsettling, so start offering connection early.
- Parents that signup to volunteer for even the smallest of tasks. Often motivated because they want to make friends.
- Parents that live in more remote areas. Can you help them connect with other families in their area?
Use the @mention function and private message families that live nearby to e-introduce them to each other.
2. Reframe your goals.
Instead of your regular committee meeting agenda around events and fundraising targets. Start the conversation “What could I do in 2 hours per week?” Get your committee to brainstorm ideas that help to connect small groups of parents. Such as a virtual coffee for your class around icebreaker topics.
Follow us on twitter @goclasslist on hashtag #Friyay for weekly topic ideas to discuss with your fellow parents. This is a fun way of building more meaningful relationships with a smaller group. We think it works well with a maximum of a dozen participants. From our experience about half the class is likely to be able make it.
Here are some fun subjects we’ve enjoyed with the Classlist team so far.
- You are hosting a dinner party and you can invite 3 guests past or present to join you for an evening of fine food and conversation.
- Who do you invite?
- What is the weirdest or most unusual food you’ve ever eaten?
- What is your dream job? Why?
- What is the best live performance / concert / event you’ve been to and why?
The best part is every conversation generates new topics naturally. Share on #Friyay your topics, we’d love some fresh ideas.
3. Offer opportunities to undertake small acts of kindness
An interesting phenomena, volunteers are often motivated by the desire to make friends. So fulfil this need by creating small, containable tasks that parents can participate in. Make sure that each task also provides an opportunity to work with or share an activity. For instance, if the task is about mending school uniforms, arrange a virtual coffee for volunteer menders to share tips and tricks and get to know each other. Take a similar approach for school gardening volunteers and so forth. Here is a link to our downloadable volunteer wish list.
4. Bond around a shared activity
Virtual book clubs are going strong on Classlist this term. Set up a book club group. Ask parents to recommend a book and to invite another parent to join.
Walking groups on Classlist are also thriving. Use the sign up tool to arrange pairs to walk together. Focus the rules of engagement on making new friends by suggesting to parents to sign up to walk with someone they don’t already know. You could even set up a competition amongst participants. Here at Classlist we’ve set up three teams to compete in a step challenge. Countit.com is an inexpensive and easy app to set up your teams. It’s also something you could roll out more broadly across the school as an inter-class challenge.