My 3-year-old is super hyper, especially around other kids. Last month, I worked up my courage and took him to a playgroup for the first time. It was a total disaster. He ran around, wouldn’t listen and knocked over another kid. I’m never doing that again.
It’s frustrating when you make an effort to try something new and it doesn’t go well – you may be tempted to avoid groups altogether. Before you do that, however, consider this: every parent I mentioned this topic to shared a horror story about something their child had done at a group. It may not help in the moment but we’ve all been there!
If you’re hesitant about going back to a playgroup or going for the first time, here are some tips for making it easier for you and your child.
1. Talk to a program staff person beforehand.
• You can bring up your concerns and work on a plan together. It’s also nice to have ideas from someone who has seen a wide variety of behaviour and is knowledgeable about different developmental stages. (If you are meeting in person to talk about behavioural issues, it should be done without your child being present.)
2. Do a practice run
• Go to the school / building/ room where the group will be held so that you and your child can have a look around. It can be overwhelming to be in a brand-new place with lots of noise and stimulation.
3. Visualize yourself responding as the parent you want to be
• As parents, we all have situations where we react without thinking, and only afterwards come up with the perfect response. Annoying, isn’t it?! One way to work on this is to use visualization. This means thinking about a situation ahead of time, identifying potential problems and then imagining that you are responding in a calm, positive way.
4. Consider the timing
• Find out if programs have certain days or times are better than others. If your child does better with outdoor play, go on a day where the program is outside. If Fridays tend to be really busy, go on a Monday, instead.
• If your child is going through a particularly rough time (getting sick or dealing with other big changes, for example) it may not be the best time to start something new.
5. Set small goals
• If it works for the group, consider attending for the last half an hour, rather than coming at the beginning and trying to stay for the whole time. That way, your child gets to finish with everyone else, rather than leaving in the middle if things aren’t going well.
And if things don’t go well? That’s okay, too – give yourself and your child a pat on the back for getting out there and trying something new!
Thank you to the Friday’s Child, StrongStart and Infant Development programs for their help with this topic. If you would like to contact these programs or would like more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.