Karate lessons have been around since the 70’s and it’s value to youngsters has also shifted with the generations. It used to be a place for kids to learn to control aggression, to learn to sport-fight and even to learn to stand up to bullies in the school yard. While these things are still true, there are more aspects of training that are crucially important to todays youth. Here is one you may not have expected: Socialization... how do we know this?
Instructors have noticed lately that more kids seem to have quite a bit of anxiety when brought to participate in their first class. They have begged their parents to let them join but when they show up there is a meltdown that their parents never saw coming. At first it seems kind of unusual that an 8 year old will burst into tears. No, they are not immature, “spoiled” or afraid to leave their mother’s side. They are simply overwhelmed by the activity, interaction and maybe even the noise. They don’t know any of the other kids, they don’t know any of the movements. When you play a game online, no one sees if you mess up. They know what karate is from TV and gaming but don’t realize what a class may actually be like. Families do lots of great activities together too; it can be hard to take on an adventure alone. These kids are feeling naturally fearful of what they do not know and cannot control. There is no “app” to guide them.
What do we do? Here are some ideas to help a child who experiences this anxiety: Never play into to the tears as if they are a baby (this is VERY hard to do but they must be treated very adult-like in this state). Tell them it is perfectly OK to feel nervous, everyone does. Encourage them to stop themselves from crying so they can use words to express what they are feeling. Watch the class so they know what will happen and think of questions to ask afterwards. Do not show disappointment if they choose not to participate; bring them back again just to watch and let them decide if they want to try the next time. Have a friend or sibling join them in that first class to give them a little moral support. Perhaps they could participate in a camp or movie night with a friend to get them acclimated. Maybe view videos of class and students on the school website or facebook This is important: If the meltdown doesn't subside quickly, find a private area to talk and calm them down. If a child feels they have made a "scene" they will be too embarrassed to come back another day. Most of all, talk to your Sensei. they have a lot of experience not only with teaching Karate but also working with kids.
So many kids are quiet, smart, shy, and may even be more comfortable with adults than people their own age. Karate class is filled with drills and games that create healthy interaction. The children bond as they learn to do techniques with each other. Many students often come to class a bit early so they can socialize with their karate friends. Girls and boys learn to socialize with each other without gender bias. While Karate builds healthy bodies and minds, is not a team sport that depends on athleticism and competitiveness. It is a physical art that requires effort and dedication. Each student is on their own journey yet part of a wonderful group of like-minded people. Kids need this socialization more than ever. If you think Karate is right for your child, let us work with you to ease them into an activity that will do them a world of good!