So you’ve waited to start your Little Star or Budding Ballerina in dance class. You’ve watched Barbie Nutcracker 100 times, you’ve filmed her dancing and singing around the playroom to the Frozen soundtrack, you’ve gushed as she’s displayed all her moves at the mini disco on holidays and now finally the big day is here, the day she couldn’t wait for but instead of pirouetting through the door without a care in the world, she is now clinging to mummy/daddy/childminder, crying at the top of her lungs and point blank refusing to enter. What’s happened?
The first day of a new dance class should be an exciting adventure for children. However there are a number of children who find starting new activities overwhelming, despite having shown a massive interest in the activity in the lead-up. This can be frustrating both for the child and indeed the parent. But fear not!! There are several reasons why children may cry or act up at this time and very little has to do with not actually wanting to take dance lessons. By following my advice, you may be able to overcome this or avoid this situation completely and continue to take the dance lessons you both looked forward to.
September is a busy time in every household, with children starting play school, big school and new after school activities. Many parents who have been lucky enough to have parental leave or extended holidays during the summer months now return to full-time employment. Many children who have spent their preschool years in a crèche environment, now enter new after school childcare with a new childminder, grandparent or Au Pair to name a few. The majority of 3 year old toddlers are starting play school/Montessori for the first time. A huge number of toddlers have also gained or are about to gain a new sibling and may have become used to having mummy at home on her maternity leave. All of these events can be challenging to a child. Sometimes starting Dance Class can be the final straw. This is not to say that they should not start dance, but rather that we should be more understanding and forgiving of their behaviour as they adjust to their new routines.
I once had a pre-schooler who cried and cried at the start of class and when I asked the mum was this usual behaviour she told me how she had just returned to work that week after almost 12 months maternity/parental leave, they had started the little girl with a new childminder and that same morning started play school- even I was feeling overcome with her day- needless to say after settling in to her new home life routine, she skipped into dance in the weeks that followed.
Mummy’s company is far more appealing than a strangers/ new dance teachers!! Most children (my own included) have mummy wrapped around their finger and really enjoy mummy’s company. Who wouldn’t? Mummy is the person who has looked after you 24/7 since the day you were born. Lots of mummies (me included) have full time jobs, so time with your children is precious while for stay at home mums, you and your Little Star are rarely parted and therefore when presented with the option of staying with mummy (or daddy) or joining a room full of strange children, it’s no surprise that some children will choose mummy!! I often encourage these young children to bring along a favourite doll/teddy/blanky, something that helps them feel a little more secure and confident. 9 times out of 10, once the music begins and the class gets going, these children settle in just fine. And over time, after getting to know the teachers and the other children within the class, look forward to going to dance class each week.
Children just like adults can sometimes have one of those days when it all seems to go wrong and the only thing that they want to do is get home to their own home, with their toys and relax. Going to Dance Class or any other activity for that matter is not high on their agenda. As I stated earlier, September is an exceptionally busy time for children and it’s no surprise that lots of pre-schoolers are exhausted!! For many 3 year olds, they are just giving up that afternoon nap and if they’re anything like my second son Ethan- you will know when they haven’t had it!! For the majority of children summer time has been a very relaxing time; sleeping in with no rushing to get to school/activities but endless days at the park, beach etc. Suddenly they find themselves in September, being awoken to get up and dressed and out the door, attending play school/big school, swimming class, dance class, drama class, gymnastics, soccer…..it’s no wonder they are exhausted. Children today have busier social lives than adults. Maybe today after getting up at 6 am, going to play school for 3 ½ hours, a quick trip to the library, skipping your usual 2 1/2hour snooze with Teddy and instead having a playdate with Suzie and doing the shopping in Tesco , dance class was just too much effort!!! So rethink your schedule on Dance Day for the first few weeks to ensure your budding ballerina is refreshed and ready for class.
Some children are more anxious and cautious than others. Despite initially looking forward to the class, this child has now become fretful and nervous about the class. Sometimes the event has been built up so much at home by excited parents and friends that the child has become overwhelmed by the whole notion of attending class. Getting the dance uniform, doing the hair, taking the photographs for mummy’s face book has resulted in your little prince or princess now not wanting to go at all. Sometimes, you are best to not make such a big deal about starting the class. Don’t arrive too early and then find that you are hanging around waiting for your class to begin, particularly as toddlers’ attention span is limited and they become bored easily. Find out the teachers names in advance (Careen, Jennifer, Siobhan, Chloe) and teach it to them so they have one person that they definitely know when they come! I often recommend not purchasing the new dance uniform for a few weeks, until they have settled in as some children can be “funny” about the feel of a leotard and this tiny thing can ruin your whole experience.
As a dance teacher and parent I know it’s hard to watch your child crying at something that was supposed to be fun. However for most children these tears stop once mummy has left and the class has started. We are very fortunate in our dance school to have 2 teachers in every class, enabling us to start class as usual while the second teacher tends to the shyer, more nervous children. We often tell the children that Mummies can’t come to dance class because they are too big and instead all the mummies will have their own dance class outside in the car park. So while they are in here with me making new friends, mummy is outside with the other mummies making her new friends. We also encourage them to go home and play dance teacher; they must be the teacher and mummy must be the student. Of course we would never leave a child crying at class, this is not good for the student who is crying but also it is not good for the rest of the class so rest assured that if your child is very upset we would always call you and if she or he cannot be calmed, recommend you come back the following week. I always tell Little Star/ Budding Ballerina parents to give Dance Classes or indeed any after school activity 3 weeks/ 3 classes before you decide that it isn’t for them. I often see parents of those that are upset looking at the children who are positively beaming and leaping into class and I remind them that all children respond to new situations differently and each child has had a first day of dance, and that maybe the little confident girl in the centre of the group was crying on her first day. There are a lot of reasons why children may become nervous about starting new things but by listening to your child and using some of the advice I have given above hopefully your child’s dance career will be off to a flying start!!