Gym Class Woes: How to Help Your Kid Like PE Class

You can probably relate – there was probably one time you felt inferior in gym class. (Or maybe you’re more like me and thought PE = total hell, and are still scarred to this day.) Gym class anxiety is most common in middle school. Carefree elementary days give way to adolescents being self-conscious about their changing body or lack of athletic ability. Is your kiddo struggling with PE? Here are some ways to help them cope:

Flag on the Play

Besides being body conscious and worrying if they can do a pushup, there are other reasons kids dread gym class. They could be a target for a bully, have a fear of being picked last on a team, have a fear of failing the physical fitness test, or feel uncomfortable with changing in the locker room. It’s important to have a chat and find out exactly what their struggle is and validate their concerns. Once you’ve nailed down the reasons, you can begin to problem-solve a way for your kid to have less anxiety and actually enjoy gym class.

Sensitive Gym Teachers?

Thanks to pop culture, PE teachers often get a bad rap for being heartless bullies. The truth is that most are passionate about encouraging and inspiring kids to lead a healthier lifestyle. It may be a good idea to discuss your kid’s specific anxiety about gym class with the teacher. They can keep a closer eye on the situation and offer more encouragement and assistance in areas they’re struggling with, or identify your kid’s athletic attributes they didn’t know they had.

Don’t Sweat It

Your child may think that everyone is whispering insults when they come in last in the mile run, or is laughing behind their back when they trip over a hurdle – but chances are, it’s all in their head. Help your child understand that those negative thoughts are based on their own autobiographical point of view. In other words, not everyone is thinking the worst of you just because you feel insecure. It’s the lack of self-confidence that is adding to their anxiety. In fact, other kids probably aren’t even paying attention – they’re more concerned about their own shortcomings!

Get into the Zone

What kinds of sports or activities will be part of their PE class? If soccer is coming up, kick the ball around in the backyard. Track coming up? Find out if they’re stronger in short or long distance running. If their interests are geared more toward less traditional gym offerings like karate or dance, enroll them in a class. Finding a physical activity they enjoy afterschool will help them to feel more confident in school and foster a love for being active.

The Apple Does Fall Far from the Tree Sometimes

Perhaps you basked in the limelight of being a jock and effortlessly won medals and trophies, but your kid excels in art and playing the trumpet. If you were a gifted athlete, it may create a lot of (unintentional) pressure on your kid who wants acceptance and approval from you. Be careful not to project your athletic prowess and pressure your kid to love your sport or strive to have the same athletic abilities as you did. Focus on the fun of playing with other peers and opt for a light-hearted attitude when you hang out together playing catch or shooting hoops. 

Time Out

When your kid is stressing out about the upcoming mile run or fitness test, help put their mind at ease by teaching them relaxation techniques. A simple technique called controlled breathing can greatly reduce anxiety and provide a sense of calm. Practice at home by breathing in through the nose for a count of four, then let the belly expand. Breathe out for a count of four; repeat. This is a good skill to develop that will aid in other areas like test anxiety too.

Personal Best

Be mindful to model healthy habits and let your kid see you having fun while you take part in physical activities. If you find exercise to be a chore and boring, they may see exercise in gym class the same way. Talk to your kid about personal goals versus winning and losing. There’s a lot of gratification that comes from achieving your personal best. Share times when you increased your walking mileage for the week, or when you surpassed your batting average on your softball league. With the focus on a sense of accomplishment rather than an acceptance of peers or measuring up, you’re cultivating skills that will help them develop a greater sense of self-confidence, and overcome the fear and anxiety in other school-related situations that may occur.

How do you plan on encouraging your kiddo to enjoy PE? Share your tips and stories with us!

Tags : school   physical education   active play   

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