8yo anxiety....what will today hold..crazy long sorry

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Proud Parent
Jan 4, 2010
Well DD has been dealing with a couple of blocks that may or may not hold her back from competing this year.

While working through them she seems to have started to hold back to the points where it really frustrated the coach last week. She was fine in straps and even on a raised low bar, but when she was up on the high bar it was like she stopped trying.

I could see that as it was very obvious (the difference in form even to my very untrained eye) and then it seemed to carry over to other events.

As a rule we did not talk about gym in the car, but she brought it up and ...Below if the resulting letter to the coach in that regard:

Let me preface this with an apology as it most likely will be way longer than necessary, but I tend to ramble.......

Further to our conversation today I thought I would fill you in on how the ride home and further conversations went with DD tonight. I have told her to ask to talk to you tomorrow in private, but I doubt she will be able to remember or get it all out on her own; so I am hoping if you have this information it will help clear the air for everyone. Not to mention getting her to talk to me was a marathon and she is shy, scared to tell you both how she is feeling and in some ways she isn't really sure so she can't explain it. I guess that is part of being 8yo and trying to get a handle on it all.

As you know today and this week really has been one of DD's worst - to say the least - and I commend you with the patience you have shown as for me even watching it was very trying. As we have a rule not to discuss gym in the car or unless she requests it I did not bring up today, but she did so I figured I would put what I saw on the table.

I cannot say for sure what incited her to want to talk about gym in the parking lot, but when I reminded her of our rule she said that we were still at gym and she wanted to talk about it. The gist of the discussion was that her performance today seemed to indicate that she did not even want to be there. We talked about various reasons for this and what he felt she wanted. At first she just said that she needed a break and that she just could not get gym out of her mind and even at school it was making her cry. On trying to get her to expand on the why she could not get it out of her mind and why she felt this way I think the biggest thing really is fear. Not just fear of moves, but fear of getting behind or not keeping up, fear of disappointing others, fear of falling behind, fear of others not believing in her as she has a hard time believing in her self. I reminded her that if she felt it was not fear and she just needed to step back that it was okay, but if it was fear that a break would not solve the issue only delay dealing with it. I even asked her if she thought she wanted to quit or go back to previous coach group or a lower level to let her know there are other options as well.

There were tears as I did mention that I felt that if she kept sending the message that she did not want to be there that it would soon not be her decision as she would be asked to take a new path for lack of better words. We talked about how sometimes our actions can say more than our words and that no matter how much your coaches want to help you if you don't want to help yourself or give up then so will they. She said she does not want to quit or go to a different group as she cannot imagine her life without gymnastics and really wants to compete and b all she can be. She still wants to go to the" Olympics" and even though we know that is a stretch on many levels it is a dream that I will support as long as she wants.

Once we got home there were more tears as she was going over everything in her head. As I had told her that no one would be disappointed in her as long as she tries her best, but today that was not the case. She was really worried about come tomorrow if it did not seem like she was trying her best what would happen. Mike wanted to have her and us set up a meeting, but I think that a big part of the hurdle is for her to do this. I explained to her about how the relationship with her coaches is hers alone and in order for you to grow together that she has to let you both in. I tired to tell her how frustrating it must be for someone to try and work with you and understand what you are thinking when all you do is shrug your shoulders at them. How can anyone try and help you if they don;t know what you are feeling where as if you let them know then you can all work on it together.

We took a break on the conversation and I let her chill out and watch "Dance Moms". I could tell that she was still thinking it all over and just let her be in her own thoughts.

After it was over I could see her letting her anxiety getting worked up so I asked her if she thought it would help to write a list about what she was feeling. She thought that was an okay idea and got to writing.

She says she will bring the paper tomorrow for you to see, but in case she doesn't this was it:

- have headache
- scared
- disappointed
- feeling bad
- scared
- shy
- scared of talking to HC1 and HC2
- stressed out

she had started to write "want to take a little....(break was not in there) and then she crossed it out

She gave me this list to read and we went through each point trying to identify the cause and effect of each.

Headaches - result of worrying too much
1st Scared - bars and beam : We talked about the specific moves on each and what is the worst thing that can happen. Falling and getting hurt were mentioned and then she said that led to not being able to do things and falling behinds. Also talked about how getting hurt and bruises etc. don;t last long and they go away...not sure what part was the bigger trigger.
Sad - She was sad about not doing gym....
Disappointed - mostly disappointed in herself for not doing her best and that she can do better
Feeling Bad - letting others down and disappointing coaches
2nd Scared - Coaches will ask her to leave, to want to coach her
Shy - has a hard time knowing and telling what she is feeling, embaressed
Talking to HC1 and HC2 - thinks she needs to be it all now - strong, confident scared to show weakness
Stressed out - all of the above

Upon analyzing the above we deiced this was like a stinky snowball (similar to the ones the make forts with at recess that are filled with goose pooh form the geese) that one thing would just manifest upon another and keep getting bigger. In the end it was creating what she feared most as it was causing her to hold back, not do well and in the end would end up getting her hurt. At least this analogy actually had her laughing!

I then asked her to tell me about as an 8yo what she could do and the list was:

- try her best
- have fun
- be myself
- be truthful
- be happy
- be kind
- don;t doubt herself

I reminded her how she she did all these things that everything else would take care of itself. We called this Nikki and that was who she was and if she remembered these thing and believed in herself that that the "stinky" snowball would eventually go away.

That seemed to make her at peace and then I had to push her to go to bed....11pm on a school night is going to make for a prize in the morning.

So that is it in a nutshell; an 8yo who just needs to find a way to get out of her head. I hope that she does talk to you tomorrow as I really think it will go a long way to getting her to relax and have fun. If that happens the world is her oyster and you won't have the stress you are dealing with now.

I really thank you both for your patience and understanding as I know she can get through it, unfortunately she just worries and thinks way to much for her age.

Well here we are a week later and DD is still so anxious that she sent the coaches a text last night asking to go back to her old group. It is still a pre-novice group - just more the entry level not quite as advanced - that is less hours and not with the head coaches.

She sent this around 7pm last night and has not heard anything all night (which made her more anxious) and I am not sure if we will hear anything this morning. I am worried if we don't hear before she will be a wreck before we even get to gym.

I guess my question is; do you think we will hear before we go to gym today? Should I tell her they just want to wait and talk to her when she gets there even though I am not sure? I assume that they have read the text, but maybe not??

I am at a lost as all I really want is for her to find that happy place and love for the sport that seems to have gotten lost in the past little while!

Sorry and thanks for sticking with the novel if you made it this far.
I think your note to coach was well written & information the they needed. My DD also goes through some thngs that will upset her & she will vent/cry in the car. I always say that she needs to speak with HC because if she doesnt tell her she won't know & cannot work towards a resolution. She always begs me not to say anything to HC. Normally I will respect that but have occasionally let the cat out of the bag when I felt it important enough.

I think you should request a meeting with the coaches & your family & DD. All of this needs to be on the table & on the same page. If as a team you guys cannot get DD to see that nobody will be disappointed unless she doesn't try her best & that she understands that her best isn't the same everyday and that because she falls 5 times in one practice on a trick she normally can do doesn't mean she wasnt trying.

If she continues on the path she eill quit or have an ulcer !!! There was a girl on DD team who quit between L4 L5. I am convinced that she quit because she was struggling with her cartwheel on beam & her kip & she knew if she missed them in a meet she might not win & felt that not winning would let her parent s and coach down. She was a very good gymnast & placed on podium in most meets. Sadly, she was rewarded each time she did so & thus added to the impression that it was the winning that was important.

set up a meeting so she knows that nobody will be disappointed as long as she tries her best. DD's HC says the only bad score is the one you get if you don't give 100%.

then maybe start rewarding the small stuff. doesnt have to be anything real exciting or can be all verbal. Could be as simple as you really workrd hard at practice today or this week or whstever I sae these adorable fuzzy socks @ the dolllar store I thought you would like them really enforce that it is the effort not the result. the result will come eventually but it may be years away. trust me, still waiting ;)
I agree with setting up a family meeting with the coaches. I think you are expecting a lot for an 8yo to be able to meet with the coaches and explain her feelings etc. My dd is 14 and I can hear some of her in your writing. Some kids are just so internally hard on themselves. It breaks my heart sometimes, this is suppose to be fun for them. Some kids just don't care if their coaches are happy with them, but my dd said a few weeks ago that she feels like she disappoints her coaches (I don't see where this came from, she is progressing nicely- slow and steady). We met with the coaches and they told her she has already exceeded their expectations. They came up with a plan to deal with a few issues she is having and in the end, she felt like the weight of the world was lifted off her shoulders. I hope your meeting goes well. Keep us updated!
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Poor kid :( I was an incredibly nervous child and it was apparent in the gym, it was ultimately that stress, combined with some pretty serious injuries, that led me to leave the sport, I just couldn't take the pressure anymore- and it was mostly pressure I was putting on myself. I would hate to see your DD allow those pressure and expectations she put on herself to cause her to lose her love for the sport, or just cause all of those bad feelings that come with being so worked up about something.
Your letter to the coaches was great, what was their response to it? Did they take time to discuss some of the issues with your DD and help clarify some of their expectations for her- helping her realize that missing a skill or having a bad practice isn't going to cause them to lose faith in her? DD probably has an image in her mind of what they are expecting from her and what they think of her, because anxious kids are usually great at overthinking every little thing, and it might be helpful to get a clearer picture of what her coaches are actually feeling.
I second gymmomntc's suggestion to schedule a meeting with the coaches to talk everything over and work out a plan for your DD. It might mean stepping back to a less intense group and building up her self-esteem and helping her enjoy the sport again.
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Is the anxiety being treated? My dd works with a psychologist and it has helped tremendously. She's not on any medication. We've gone a good stretch now (about 2 months) with no meltdowns where gym is concerned. Last year was rough. Tears and meltdowns would stop her just about every practice and I either had to take her home or one of the coaches had to come get her for her to go to practice. I almost took her out but dd kept insisting that was not want she wanted.

A meeting with the coaches is a great idea. It's important that they understand the anxiety and how to work with it.
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Fear is a large part of gymnastics and gymnasts all have their own way of dealing with it. You seem to be giving your DD some great tools in expressing her fear and overcoming it.

Many parents want to protect their children from fear, label it as a negative emotion and in doing so actually produce a more heightened anxiety response from their kids.

Fear is a natural emotive response that can be healthy and productive as it signals a mental challenge and opportunity to progress.
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I too have an anxious 8 yo. Pleasing her coaches and any other adult in her life seems to be of great concern to her. She was with a high pressure coach who expected perfection and when she was pushed too hard she started to go backwards nt forwards. After much effort we decided she needed to move to a gym that didn't push so hard. I hear that you aren't in that situation however, we also requested she be backed down a level. This has proved to be great for her confidence. She was skill ready to survive the next level but not have great success. In the level she was moved to she is a leader and this seems to have helped her confidence and success in the gym! Good luck with your DD, I know it's hard but hang in there.
Sounds like you are giving her great support in dealing with fear/anxiety. My Dd also has it with various skills that she is woring on. Head coach/owner brought in dr. Ali for the gymmies as well as the parents to help with fear issues and wrighting them down along with what would happen if the fearful thing occurs also helped Dd see nothing bad would happened. It is important that her coach understands what Dd is thinking so he/she can help your Dd work through it. My DD's coach knows her so well now that all she has to do is look at her face to read what's going on on her head and she snaps Dd out of it with a word (dr ali says something like "flip it" or an action lol. Keep us posted
Update on DD and her decision

DD did hear back from the coaches that night and they were great. It turns out they were actually impressed that a girl her age came up with such a "smart" solution as they were seeing the fear and change in her as well.

She went back to her old group the following day and came home a bit upset/worried that she had made a mistake about her choice. (I swear this girl seems to worry about everything;)) We called the head coaches and once they talked to her about how this was not taking a step back; just giving her time to deal with her fear and not worry about competing she was okay. I think it was the first time she realized how far ahead she was on floor and beam than the other girls her age in that level. In turn she panicked thinking she would have to go backwards, but after being assured that was not the case she was okay.

It has been a couple of weeks back in her new group and things are great. She is back up on the high beam and she is just using two mats underneath while working her BHS/BHS connection and she is not only doing her RO/TU dismount, but even doing RO/LO on to mats. On bars she is spending lots of time in the straps and then the raise the low bar to its highest level so in turn she does not have to bend her leg and can do the giants full without the fear of being on the high bar.

On floor she is now working on her FHR/FLO and on adding her full turn to her tumbling lines so she feels better about that too.

She is even excited to go to the competition that we are hosting in January as it is also the elite screening event in our province just to cheer on the girls from the group she stepped back from.

The best thing of all is that she is back to saying I can't wait to get to gym, lets go early and has found her happy place again!:)
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