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  • Diane Neave

Has separation anxiety got your little one too anxious or nervous to try a new club or activity?

Starting a new club or activity, whether that be a sports club, art class or Performing Arts school like Rascals, starting something new can a big step for children. It can be a super exciting experience but also a little scary and overwhelming, especially for those with separation anxiety. But do not worry, you are not alone in facing this challenging time – with a little love and support, you can conquer this in no time at all!

Separation anxiety is a normal part of growing up and in our experience can happen at various different stages throughout childhood. It can be a really challenging & upsetting time for both children & their parents, but it doesn't need to hold your little one back! At Rascals, we understand how traumatic some children can find it being separated from their parents & how difficult & challenging this can be for parents too but they CAN get through it! Preparation is the key! Firstly, Let your child know that it's ok & perfectly normal to feel nervous about starting something new. Explain that lots of children feel the same way & share a memory of something you did when you were younger that you felt nervous about too!

Before you start your first ‘Dance, Act & Singing’ class, look at your Rascals class website page & show your child the picture of their class teacher, telling them their name. You will receive our new starters information pack prior to starting with information about what to expect from your free trial, share this with your child & talk about what the class involves & how much fun it will be. Talking about it in an upbeat way and expressing your excitement at how much fun it will be will create a positive feeling for your child and help them to feel prepared & In control.

Role-playing 'separation' can be a really fun & super helpful way for parents to prepare their child for this new experience. Here are a few ideas for role-playing separation that you could try at home:

1. Play "Going to School" - Pretend to be a teacher and have your child act as a student. Practice saying goodbye and walking into the ‘classroom’. You could even role-play a ‘lesson’, then prepare for ‘hometime’ & be reunited at the end so that they learn that you are always going to come back for them

2. Play "Going to a Sleepover" - Have your child pack a bag and practice saying goodbye at the door. This can help them get used to the idea of sleeping somewhere other than home. Act out the super fun sleepover & don’t forget to pick them up again!

3. Act Out a ‘Scenario’ - Create a scenario where you have to leave for a short period of time, such as going to the supermarket or popping to a neighbour. Give them am activity to do whilst you pretend to leave. Practice saying goodbye and coming back after a short period of time.

4. Act out going to your Rascals class – Pretend to have the admin person signing your child in & say goodbye to you. Then pretend to be the class teacher & do some fun dancing! Line up at the end of the class & hand back to you with a big hug & lots of praise!

Remember to keep the role-play sessions short and positive, gradually increasing the duration of separation. This can help your child build up their coping skills and feel more prepared and confident when the time comes for them to attend Rascals!

Finally, our number ONE ‘TOP TIP’ is to talk to them about what you are doing AFTER Rascals! It doesn’t matter what it is, you could be going to Tesco to do some shopping, you could be popping round to Grandad’s or having a movie night or baking a cake! Having this discussion with your child gives them something to focus on, they know that you are coming back for them at the end of the class as you have arrangements in place for what you are doing after, it completely changes their mindset!

We have given this piece of advice to many of our parents & it is quite unbelievable how this simple conversation can be a complete game-changer for everyone! We see the child that usually gets very upset, hides & finds it so difficult to come into the class, a completely changed child! They come in confidently to class, they no longer have to worry whether their parent is going to come back for them, they KNOW that they are because they know that they are doing something after! Gone is the upset child, the distressing scene for the parent & the challenge to placate the child! It’s a WIN WIN situation all round!

If you are going through a difficult time with your child suffering with separation anxiety & not wanting to leave your side, don’t give up, try some of our tried & tested methods above & remember, you can get through this!

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