What is Separation Anxiety and How to Help Your Child Through It


What is Separation Anxiety?

Separation anxiety is a common experience for preschoolers and children in early elementary school. Children can be scared of being separated from their loved ones, including parents and other primary caregivers.

When children experience separation anxiety, it often comes with tears, shyness, reluctance to participate in activities, or just plain refusing to leave their grown-up’s side.

Separation Anxiety and Sportball

Here at Sportball, our drop-off programs are designed for children ages 3 and up, and we have a few goals for these programs:

  • to progress children from parent-assisted skill practice in our Parented programs to independent skill practice.
  • to provide children with the opportunity to develop their social skills and make new friends.
  • to help children build positive experiences in an organized environment with authority figures other than their parents, like coaches and teachers.
  • to help children build confidence in themselves, both on and off the field.

In our drop-off programs, we see varying levels of separation anxiety in new (and sometimes returning!) Sportballers, so don’t let it give you anxiety too. Our coaches are trained to ease your child’s anxiety, help them feel comfortable in class, and work with you throughout the program.

As a Sportball policy, parents and caregivers are asked to remain outside of drop-off classes in order to minimize distractions and encourage Sportballers to participate on their own. We understand it can be nerve-racking dropping your child off when they’re not completely comfortable yet, so we’ve put together a few tips for working through separation anxiety.

Tips for Dealing with Separation Anxiety in Your Child

Speak with your coach.

If you suspect your child will have separation anxiety, arrive at your first class a few minutes early and speak with your Sportball coaches. You can share your concerns with the coaches, and this also gives your child and the coaches some extra time to bond before class begins.

As the season or camp progresses, your coaches will update you on your child’s participation, progress, and enjoyment of the program.

Talk about Sportball every day.

To help your child get used to the idea of participating in Sportball independently, talk to your child about Sportball every day. Walk them through the routine, including drop-off, playing a new sport, and getting picked up by you after sticker time. Hearing about the routine every day will help your child feel more comfortable when Sportball day arrives.

Speak in terms your child will understand.

When talking to your child about being dropped off for Sportball, use terms your child will have an easier time understanding. For example, instead of telling your child that you’ll be back in an hour to get them, say you’ll be back right after sticker time with the coaches.

Don’t sneak out of the gym.

It’s tempting to sneak out of the gym once your child has begun participating in class and isn’t paying attention to you anymore. However, within a few minutes, your child will likely look for you and when they don’t see you, they’ll panic. When you sneak out of the gym and a child notices you’re missing, it breaks their trust and makes it harder for them to let you leave next time.

Instead, let your child know you’ll stay for a couple of minutes and then say an official goodbye so they can play on their own.

Create a fun goodbye ritual.

To make the drop-off more fun for your child, create a special goodbye with them. Perhaps it’s a triple hug, a special high-five handshake, or a funny phrase you only say for drop-offs. A short and sweet goodbye ritual helps your child focus on the positives rather than fixating on the separation.

Stay nearby in case your child needs you.

While Sportball maintains a policy of having grown-ups outside the gym, it’s helpful to have parents nearby in case they’re needed. If you wait in the hallway just outside the gym, the coach can easily step outside to get you if necessary. Sometimes a child just needs a quick 30-second pep talk to get them through the rest of the class.

Being completely comfortable with a drop-off program could take one class or a couple of seasons, and it varies from child to child. Some children, regardless of age, aren’t ready for a drop-off program yet and that’s okay. Sportball also offers parent-participation classes which may be a better choice for your child for now.

We’re excited for you to experience coaching your child to success in participating on their own. Our team is here to support you and your family as your child learns to participate in Sportball programs and camps without their grown up!

If you have any questions about separation anxiety and your child in Sportball, feel free to speak to your coach or reach out to our team in the office. We’re always happy to discuss more with you and help coach your child to success.

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