Social networks are a standard part of our lives these days. Sites such as Cafemom and Facebook are daily check-ins for many people. While Facebook is a great way to stay in touch with long distance friends and family, and even as a casual way to stay in contact with local friends and relatives, and Cafemom can be a useful resource when facing new parenting challenges, in person social connections are vital. The internet can provide unique friendships with people you wouldn’t otherwise meet, but it’s still crucial to have friends right here in Ocala that you can hang out with on a Friday night or who can recommend a good pediatrician when yours retires.
But when you have kids, friendships change. Single friends with no kids don’t understand the challenges a parent faces. Two friends who were once close can drift apart due to differences in parenting styles. When you have a special needs child, friends with “normal” children may not be able to empathize and support you the way you need.
If you’ve found that you don’t have the kind of friendships you’d like to have, why not change that? Decide you’re going to make some new friends, and then do it. Where to find these friends depends on what kind of friend you want that person to be.
If you’re looking for a friend that can understand the challenges you face as the parent of a special needs child, your best bet will be a support group or at one of your child’s therapy or doctor’s appointments. There are a few support groups in Ocala, and you can ask your child’s doctor to recommend one for you or to help put you in touch with other parents so you can get the support you need. You can also talk to other parents in your child’s class.
Maybe you want the kind of friend that you can call up to go out on a Friday night. You don’t want someone you’ll talk to about the kids, what your spouse did, or what’s going on at work – just a friend to go out dancing with or shoot some pool. If that’s what you’re seeking, you have to find someone who also enjoys those things, and the best way to do that is to go out to the places you’d go and start talking to people. There are two nightclubs in the Ocala Entertainment Complex, Urban Cowboy and Platforms, that would be ideal if you want to go out dancing and maybe a drink or two. Bankshot Billiards, located at 2911 NE Jacksonville Rd. would be a good place to find a fellow pool player.
Be creative in finding new friends that share common interests. If you’re into photography, hang out at Cameo Photo Supply in Ocala to meet other photography buffs. If you want to get a book club going, head to Barnes and Noble or the Marion County Library to find other bibliophiles. Join a bowling league at Ocala Bowl, or get on Meetup.com to join a group that hikes or rides bikes.
Put yourself out there, be open to meeting people that you might not think you’d be friends with at first glance and see what happens. You’ll be surprised at the kinds of friends you can make.