Last summer I enrolled the girls in summer dance lessons, but it didn’t go as well as I hoped. Three of the kids regularly participated, but Rylin attended a single class (the first one) for the full length of time. Though I sat right outside the studio door, she developed extreme separation anxiety. As the weeks pressed on, I hoped it would improve, but it never did.
When it was time to enroll in classes for the school year, I opted out, feeling defeated. I mulled it over and though I wasn’t hoping for a prima ballerina, I knew dance lessons (or something similar) would help Rylin develop a few essential skills. Since we are homeschooling it was important that she learned to follow directions from another adult and feel comfortable without me. Because Rylin associated the original studio with anxiety, I decided we should try again elsewhere. In fact, I thought the best place was in my Aunt Linda’s class. The first few weeks of dance at the new studio were difficult, but Linda had several wonderful techniques that effectively eliminated anxiety for Rylin.
- The first two lessons were a mommy and me class. All of the parents stayed in the studio and participated so the children could learn what to expect WITH their moms.
- She followed a very predictable routine in the same room each week.
- She never forced participation, but encouraged it.
- She used peers as models for new skills.
- She used lots of praise and encouragement.
Rylin really enjoyed the mommy and me format, but when it ended, she was unhappy and distraught. I knew that if I attempted to stay in the room, it would exacerbate Rylin’s anxiety by inadvertently suggesting, “It’s not okay for you to do this without me.” When Rylin refused to attend class, Sydney went alone and was praised for her effort. Rylin was seated in a designated “boring chair” outside the studio. While in the boring chair, I did not interact with Rylin at all and did not allow her to play with toys or read books. After sitting in the “boring chair” once, Rylin started going to class and never threw another tantrum. In fact, she began excitedly anticipating dance class and always participated. Over the course of the year, both girls made gains in self confidence, following directions, and developing motor skills. Rylin began talking about going on stage and asking when it was time for recital. She was thrilled for her time to shine.
The night prior to recital, both girls woke up at 3:00 am with terrible coughs. Needless to say, we didn’t sleep well and the girls awoke GROUCHY! Rehearsal was atrocious. Both girls were clingy and whiney. Rylin burst into tears at the thought of going on stage and there was no consoling her. Sydney agreed to dance with her class and Rylin enjoyed watching from the audience. After seeing her class perform, Rylin reconsidered her stance about joining them. To up the anty, George promised flowers and cookies to whoever danced on stage. Rylin excitedly accepted the challenge!
The pair enjoyed primping for recital and wearing their sparkly pink tutus. As it was time for me to go to the audience, Rylin began to tear up and cling to me. I was relieved when my cousin’s daughter appeared in the dressing room and began encouraging the girls. I felt confident leaving them with T and made my escape. The backstage moms later told me that T was a huge asset backstage and Rylin may not have danced without her.
As the girls’ class entered the stage I held my breath as I counted silhouettes. I sighed as I spied six dancers instead of seven, expecting that Rylin wasn’t going. As the lights came on, I nearly cried tears of joy as I both girls on stage and dancing together. These babies have come such a long way from being two and three pound preemies to conquering their fears about performing. When reunited backstage, the girls beamed with pride and Rylin began asking when she could dance on stage again. It won’t be for another year, but we are signed up for dance again next year.
The girls were delighted to see that Daddy delivered the flowers and cookies as promised.
What fears have you conquered?