Separation Anxiety and Young Gymnasts

It is a common enough problem and situation for young gymnasts to have some degree of separation anxiety when it comes time to leave their parents and go to class. We will talk about a variety of ways of dealing with normal separation anxiety and making the transition easier.

This is Normal and Understandable Behavior

It is very normal and eminently understandable for young children who have spent their whole life with their parents to have some anxiety when being separated from them in new and unusual situations. A gym is certainly qualifies as a new experience as exciting and wonderful as it it is. Classes for a young gymnast may even be the child’s first experience leaving their parents to go with another adult in a class type situation.

Some Steps to Ease the Separation Process

There are a few steps parents can take to ease the process of separation and lessen any potential anxiety before they sign up their child for classes. First, they can ease into class time separation with practice separations. Leave your child with a friend or sitter for only brief periods and only a short distance away at first. Gradually , increase the time and distance until eventually the child is used to seeing their mother leave and being left with another trusted adult. Parents can create a little goodbye ceremony they use each and every time they go anywhere. Such rituals are comforting to children and repetition gives them a sense of calm reassurance. A goodbye ceremony can just be something simple like an “I love you” and a goodbye kiss, a special personal hand wave or something funny like “See you later, alligator.”

What To Do Right Before

When your child is going to class, sometimes it can help to let them bring a favorite doll, stuffed animal or toy. Make sure they have had a nap before and have eaten. Children are more likely to experience separation anxiety when they are hungry or tired. Parents should leave without any great deal of huge emotional displays. Parents should just tell their young gymnast that they are leaving and will return. Tell them they will be fine, everything will be fine and, then, they should just go. They should not give in to their own or their child’s anxiety. Once parents are gone, coaches are trained and have many, many “toys” and interesting activities to distract children with.

Gyms and Coaches Can Help

Gyms should help this separation situation by striving to provide the same coaches consistently and having their own beginning of class rituals to pull children into a familiar situation. With such familiar coaches and familiar activities, young gymnasts should be able to settle into the fun and exciting world of gymnastics more easily.

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