By Leila Easa
We've all been there. Edging our way to the back of the room. Checking our phone or pretending to be involved in an engaging conversation. Sometimes even counting cracks in the ceiling. Anything to avoid being recognized as the adult responsible for the screaming ballerina in the middle of the dance floor. At those moments it's easy to ask ourselves that most puzzling of all questions: How on earth did we get here?
If in short order your child went from trying on tutus and demonstrating pirouettes to terrifying an entire class with her high-decibel squawks, perhaps a little more preparation's in order before class number two. Here are our top five tips for grooming the next Pavlova (or really just a happy little dancer):
1. Prepare Your Child for What's In Store: Parents aren't the only ones who want to know what to expect. Children can feel anxious or even stressed when they can't see what's coming. Given the difficulty of transitions at their tender age, you can smooth their worries by offering a narrative in advance of opening the studio door. Mantras like "First we'll put your shoes on, then the teacher will call you into the circle, then I'll watch while the teacher shows you what to do" can bring a lot of comfort to an anxious newcomer.
2. Meet Their Physical Needs First: It's hard to dance when we're hungry or need to use the restroom. Make sure your aspiring Astaire gets a healthy snack and a quick stop at the restroom before class starts.
3. Have the Right Stuff: Sure, you're busy juggling all your fall commitments and there's no way you can get soccer cleats, tap shoes, and running sneakers for each kid at the first meeting of the season. But little dancers can be sensitive to not having the right shoes or attire. Plus too-tight shoes can make it difficult to concentrate on the teacher. Set your ballerina up for success by arming her with everything she needs before the first day of class.
4. Take it Seriously: Kids take their cues from you. If you decide to stay in the studio to watch class, be attentive to both the dancers and the rules. Loud parents are not only distracting for the class in progress but they send the wrong message to their own children: that the class is unimportant. Showing your child that you respect the class is a great way to help them respect it, too. And along those lines, be on time or early for class. Little dancers who start class stressed often stay that way for the duration.
5. Make it Fun: "Guess what? You have dance class today! I wonder what you'll decide to put into your wheelbarrow during tumbling time? And I sure hope you make it over the mud puddle during leaps!" goes a long way toward building anticipation and excitement for class.
With the right preparation, even the shyest dancer can have a great time on the dance floor. Give these steps a try and we'll be seeing you at the studio in no time.