How can parents help reduce anxiety for children starting new dance classes and activities?
Starting anything new can bring on anxiety, in adults or children. Starting a new Dance or Activity class with a very young toddler or pre-schooler can be a major milestone for experiencing anxiety for the first time. Here are a few suggestions to help you and your child work through their feelings and get comfortable in their new environment.
Prepare them in advance
Before attending a new activity or class, talk with your child about what they will be doing. View the website page about the class and show the child pictures or videos of the building, classroom, the teacher(s) and even previous students of children doing the activity. You can show in a story telling format, so they better understand what they will be doing and what will be expected of them in class.
If the activity has an open house or meet and greet, try to attend to better introduce them to the new environment before the activity starts. If they don't offer this, request a tour or to drop by and visit the classroom/teacher in advance.
Ease them in slowly
Be prepared to sit on the sidelines with your child just to observe the class. Don't pressure them to participate. While you're watching, create a dialogue that explains what is happening and how much fun it looks.
Bring a Friend
Sometimes, just having something accompany them to class is all they need. A doll or a stuffed animal sometimes does the trick. Sometimes the teacher may even allow them to dance with the item of choice.
Bring a little "Magic"
Sprinkle some imaginary "magic or brave dust" on your child. Tell the child that the dust makes them brave and strong so they can get through dance class with lots of fun and sparkle.
Implement the Buddy System
If the child is upset and hesitant to join the group, try pairing them with a buddy in class. Tell them that one is peanut butter and one is jam. They have to stick together. Keep in mind of who you are pairing them with. If you're trying a new activity, try to sign up with close friends or relatives so they go in knowing others. If the class involves parents, tell your child YOU are their BUDDY :)
Be Positive and Firm
Sometimes children just are not ready to separate. Even if they go to school and separate with no problem, an extra class might be pushing them over the edge. Each parent must feel confident that the child can do it. Changes in schedule, a new baby in the house, or a family move can all set off separation anxiety in an otherwise well-adjusted student.
Many classes hesitate to let the parents in the room for the classes, even for the first time, because then the students will want it to happen every week. Each studio has their own rules and you will need to stick to them, but remember, every child is different. Use your best judgement when it comes to helping young children separate. If you feel you or your child isn't ready to be alone yet, find an activity that allows for parent participation or observing the class with you. It can be an excellent opportunity for both child and parent to enjoy an activity together and get some fitness in at the same time!
Try Dance Basics for Pre-schoolers as your first step into the "Dance World", you can learn to dance along with your child in a relaxed and friendly environment.