When you are working with younger children choirs, from age 3 to 5th grade, you will eventually run into a “cling-on” child. These are children who “claw-hold” their parents at the choir room door as they arrive.
Do not attempt to separate them at this first meeting because you cannot know if it is the child clinging to the parent or the parent clinging to the child or both!
- Encourage the parent to come in, with the child, week after week until the child and parent are both comfortable with the separation. Allow the parents to sit with the child or sit in the back and sing along! Sometimes parents will excuse themselves mid-practice and just wait outside the room.
- Elicit a child volunteer from choir, usually one of the older ones, to be the cling-on’s choir partner early in the process.
- Allow the cling-on to attach to one of the choir leaders. That will last until they realize that one of their peers is much more fun to hang with!
- Invest time with the parent of the cling-on child after the practice choir session to help both parent and child become more comfortable with you.
- Always praise the child and the child’s parents for staying and/or participating, at whatever level!
- Make sure to recognize any sign of a cling-on’s participation with a big smile and nod of approval.
- Ignore the cling-on behaviors and avoid drawing attention to them. Make global statements to the entire group such as, “We all get a little nervous when we have to perform — but let’s just have fun, smile and sing together!”
- It is good for all singers to remember they are not alone on stage. This is not school, we are with friends and family, and we are singing for God! And when we sing for God we are under his umbrella-of-mercy; he only hears beautiful music.
- Point out your mistakes as leaders to take the pressure off even the most anxious child. Kids will love pointing your miscues after the performance!
- Anxiety is a real emotion that a child or parent does not choose to have. For them, just showing up takes guts. A patient choir director has an opportunity to provide a loving and nurturing environment with tremendous pay-offs.