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Home Family Parenting Advice Ways to connect to a new community — Good Parenting

Ways to connect to a new community — Good Parenting

mom totDear Dr. Debbie,

My husband, 2-year-old and I recently moved to the Annapolis area for his work. I’m expecting our second baby in a few months and plan to remain a stay-at-home mom for a while. I enjoy spending time with my daughter, watching her curiosity about everything, but wish there was an easy way to get myself connected and contributing to the community. Compounding this adjustment is the fact that I grew up in Europe and English is not my most comfortable language.

Mama

Don’t miss last week’s column Handling a toddler’s food refusal — Good Parenting

Welcome Mama,

It may surprise you to find that there are many visiting and transplanted foreigners in this area. Annapolis is, after all, the sailing capital of the world. Local colleges, including the Naval Academy, attract students and professors from many countries. There are also au pairs from around the globe living with families here.

Annapolis boasts a Greek Festival, an Irish Festival, and the Kunta Kinte Festival of African Heritage. Community-wide participation in Hispanic Heritage Month is growing each year. Less than perfect proficiency in English should not hamper your efforts to find your place.

In walks around City Dock, I have overheard conversations in more languages than I can identify. I have found that bilingual and multilingual individuals are generally eager to bridge language barriers — a pleasant consequence of the cultural diversity that is found here. But you’ll have to get out there to meet some of these interesting people. Look for activities that meet your children’s needs as well as your own.

Enroll

If you haven’t already, start looking for a nursery school. A co-op preschool is an organized way for parents to participate in the operation of the school — as teaching assistants or in behind-the scenes roles depending on your talents and availability. This model of early childhood education creates a tight network of families with children of similar ages, often leading to relationships long beyond the preschool years. Even a non-co-op preschool experience will have you connecting with other parents at drop off and pick up time.

As your older child makes friends in class, a natural next step will be to arrange park and playground meet ups and home-based play dates to extend the friends’ time together. You will get to know other moms this way, too.

Join

Depending on your interests in addition to your family, you might find the perfect club or organization to join. For example, if fitness is your thing, use Facebook to connect with other moms in Anne Arundel Fit Moms or Anne Arundel County Fit Moms. There are also clubs focused specifically on early motherhood as a way to overcome the isolation that can be experienced in this role.

Religious organizations often have events and groups just for families with young children as well as a variety of committees that work together on projects and issues within the congregation, the community and the world. If you find the right place, there will be older members just aching to be silly with your toddler or to hold your new infant while you take part in activities.

Volunteer

Contact the Anne Arundel County Volunteer Center to find a variety of opportunities to contribute to the community. Among them is the Chesapeake Children’s Museum, which I happen to be the founder of.

At CCM children are welcome to accompany volunteers as they perform their tasks. And why not? The place is perfectly suited to the needs of young children — endless opportunities for creative play, other children to make friends with, and friendly grown-ups who are visiting or volunteering because they, too, value play time as learning time. This coming weekend, June 10-11, admission is $1 in celebration of the museum’s 25th anniversary.

Your children can be the best ticket to finding your way around your new home.

Dr. Debbie

Deborah Wood is a child development specialist in Annapolis. She has a doctorate in Human Development from the University of Maryland at College Park and is founding director of the Chesapeake Children’s Museum. Long-time fans and new readers can find many of her “Understanding Children” columns archived on the Chesapeake Family Magazine website. You can find her online at drdebbiewood.com.

Click here for more parenting advice by Debbie Wood.

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments or submit a question to Dr. Debbie at Betsy[at]jecoannapolis.com.

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