I've made a list of a few tips to get your child ready for the first day of dance class. Your child's first day of class should be a positive and memorable experience for you both, and a little prep work can go a long way to making your experience a successful one.
Before the first day:
- Talk about what’s going to happen. Explain to your child that you’ll be waiting outside during the class but that you’ll be there when he or she is done. Don’t let it sound scary, make it sound fun! Talk about dance class over the weeks and days leading up to your child’s first class in the way that you would talk about a fun trip you plan to take. If you’re excited, he or she will be excited too!
- If at all possible, visit the space and meet the teacher before the first class. Just like adults, children get nervous when they do things for the first time. If you can visit the studio in advance, your child won’t be overwhelmed by his or her new surroundings. It can also be a fun experience for your child. The teacher will be able to show-off some of the fun props used in class and most will let your child pick a sticker to take home.
- Talk about your expectations for your child’s behavior. Explain that it is important to listen to the teacher, pay attention, and do what the teacher asks. The teacher will reinforce appropriate classroom behavior throughout the semester but hearing these reminders from a parent can make a big difference. Try not to worry if things don’t go perfectly the first few classes. Your child’s teacher will let you know how he or she is doing. Behavior is a learning process, and we don’t expect perfection.
On the first day:
- Don’t be nervous! Your child will pick up on your anxiety and become nervous him or herself. Your teacher is trained to deal with separation anxiety, crying, potty accidents and many, many more — for teachers these are normal first (and sometimes second, third, and fourth) class occurrences. Your teacher knows that you’re nervous to send your very young child into class without you, but we promise that if we really need you, we will come and get you.
- Be early! We spend 5-10 minutes before class reading a storybook with the children and this helps them to separate from their parent and get involved in another activity. If you’re late, it will be harder for your child to comfortably transition into class.
- Say goodbye and separate from your child even if he or she cries. Teachers have lots of strategies to calm your child down and distract him or her. Give your child a hug and kiss, tell him or her that you’ll be waiting when class is over, and leave him or her with the teacher. (I know this is difficult when your child cries! But I promise that it is actually better for your child in the long run. When you say goodbye but you don’t separate from your child, you actually raise his or her anxiety level. Imagine that you’re standing at the edge of a pool full of cold water. You have to get in, but you don’t want to do it. You know it’s going to be cold. The longer you wait, the harder it gets. Prolonging the goodbye is like hovering at the edge of the pool, it raises your child’s anxiety and makes it more and more difficult for him or her to calm down and have a good class.)
- Be there to greet your child when class ends. Most children will come out of class excited to see you and to show you what they’ve learned.