New experiences aren’t always easy. Especially when it comes to being away from your favorite person. Kids cry, moms cry. We know. We’ve been there, on both sides, many times. And it’s completely normal! While separation anxiety is more common in toddler ballet class, it can occur with older students as well. Below are some tips to help you and your child deal with separation anxiety and make the drop-off at dance class easier.
Trust you Chose the Right Dance Program
Know you made the right choice. You researched the best dance studio and program. You know your child is ready. Trust yourself, your child and the dance educators who will care for your most precious person. We’ve got this!
Tips for a Smooth Transition into Ballet Class
Plan your timing carefully. Enroll in classes that happen when your child is typically awake and happy (i.e., avoid nap time). Children are more likely to struggle with goodbyes when they are tired, hungry or restless. Learning to separate from you will go much more smoothly after a good rest and meal or snack! Running late or rushing makes it more stressful too, so allow plenty of time to get ready, out the door and to class a few minutes early.
Create a goodbye ritual. Ease your child’s difficulties with saying goodbye by coming up with a special way of doing it. Something like a secret saying or a hug, kiss, nuzzle, twirl sequence. Whatever you two decide, the goal is to be calm, comforting and consistent. Never sneak away. And even when it’s hard, don’t show distress, linger or come back after you complete the ritual. Clear goodbyes build trust!
Practice makes perfect. We don’t start dancing without warm-up exercises, and the same applies here. Practice separation for short periods of time before you expect your child to stay away from you for longer durations. Even if it is just for 15 minutes, this helps your child learn that you return after you leave, which is a lesson young children have difficulty truly comprehending.
Reunite on-time, every time. Being there to pick up your child when you said you would gives them the confidence that there is nothing to worry about. They may not fully grasp the concept of time yet, but this predictability gives them security.
Prepare them for the new experience. Walk them through what going to dance will be like: driving to the studio, doing a special goodbye, things they may do during class and how you’ll meet them right after. We do this anytime the children are preparing for a performance. We walk through step-by-step what it will be like going to the stage and how it might feel to have other mommies and daddies watching in the audience. River Oaks Dance often hosts open houses before the dance year starts, and this is a great opportunity to show your child around. Meeting their teachers and seeing you interact with them shows that this new person in their life can be trusted. You may even want to take pictures and look at them together several times before the first day of dance class to ease them into these new surroundings and people. Kids love knowing what to expect!
Connect with the teacher. When saying goodbye, it may be best for the teacher to make physical contact, such as holding your child in their arms or holding hands with your child. Reassure your child that you know their teacher will take good care of them while you are gone. And if you feel your child needs a special plan, please talk to your child’s dance teacher — we can set bravery goals together!
Stay Strong, Mama
It’s hard to see your little one struggle and not scoop them up to console them. But if you manage the distress with these effective strategies and remain confident, your child will pick up on that positivity, rise to the occasion and flourish. This regular part of growing up allows your child to make gains in the areas of independence and trust. And that is something we love seeing.
Before you know it, your dancer will happily skip into this familiar, safe space without looking back, leaving you alone in awe. In fact, leaving dance class may become the hard part. 😉
For further reading, check out this article about easing separation anxiety.