You hoped the lessons and classes would be fun. Instead, your clingy 3 year old feels scared at extracurricular activities. Here’s how to cope:
Jennifer didn’t get it. Her three-year-old daughter is a champ with daycare drop offs. She has no problem saying goodbye to her mom every morning.
She tried enrolling her in soccer, swim classes, and gym activities. But in every extracurricular activity she’s enrolled her in, her daughter clings to her for dear life.
She wants her daughter to enjoy these activities, grow independent and build her confidence. But she’s getting discouraged. It seems with every activity she signs her up for, her daughter is hysterical and unwilling to part from her.
She’s been patient, no matter how frustrating it can be. She understands that swim teachers aren’t as regular as daycare providers. And they’re nothing compared to her mom.
But something inside Jennifer nags and wonders whether she did the right thing in signing her up.
I have been following your blog/newsletter for some time now, and find it to be very helpful with my 3-year-old daughter! I have a question for you, and was wondering if you have any input or resources I could look into. Our daughter has been in daycare since she was a newborn, and is well-adjusted in that regard, with separating from mommy and daddy. However, when it comes to out-of-school activities on the weekend, such as soccer last fall, and swim class now, she is very attached to us, especially me. While I don’t want to pressure her, I would love for her to be confident enough to let go of me and let the swim instructor help her in swim class (last week was the first class and she became hysterical when the teacher tried to help her). I realize she needs time to warm up to a new teacher; the goal of this swim class is to have the kids separate by the end of the 10 weeks so that the parent is either at the edge of the pool or watching from a chair. Is she just too young? Any advice? Thanks!
When your clingy 3 year old is scared at extracurricular activities
I’ve dealt plenty with separation anxiety. I’ve also worried when my kids didn’t take to lessons or social functions. And my kids have had several cases of ‘mama-itis,’ where they wanted me… and only me.
And on the second day of swim lessons, my son sat on the sidelines for the whole hour. He refused to go in, even though he’d already had his first lesson.
Give your daughter a heads up so she knows what to expect.
Before going to class, say “Today we’ll put on your swim suit, then drive to swim class. There, we’ll start off in the water, then Miss Teacher will help you play in it so you can have fun and swim better. Other kids will be splashing around with you.”
Highlight the fun factors.
When my then-toddler was scared of taking a bath, we found something fun about this dreaded part of the day. In his case, he loves fountains, so we made the faucet all about fountains and how fun it was. Other fun factors with swimming might include getting to wear a new swimsuit or wimming like Nemo.
Be calm and don’t fuss yourself.
If your daughter notices your anxiety, she’ll think, “Mom’s scared too. This really must be scary then!”
Reassure your daughter that you’re nearby.
Let her know you’ll be watching her having fun and that you’re not far away at all.
Hand your daughter off to the teacher calmly and nonchalantly.
Your confidence shows her that feeling scared at extracurricular activities isn’t necessary. You trust her teacher, her environment and everything else that’s taking place.
Know when to call it quits.
Keep trying and see if she’s making progress. But if she remains hysterical or even gets worse, maybe it’s time to ditch the class.
It’s not a failure on your part. Not every child loves extracurricular activities. They’re fine if they don’t sign up for classes. The intention was good, but if it’s causing more stress, it’s okay to let go.
Maybe pursue a class that’s like something she is interested in. She may not like swimming or soccer but she loves singing and playing.
Your turn: Do you enroll your kids in extracurricular activities and did you face similar difficulties with your child unwilling to let go of you?
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