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Younger girls training with older girls

Dad1234

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May 12, 2018
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My daughter is changing gyms. The gym that we choose is putting her in a level with a wide range of ages, some who will be 6-7 years older than her. She is 6 years old and will hopefully have a few kids close in age to her, but I suspect she will be the youngest. She is not exceptionally talented, the new gym just tends to have older team gymnasts verses a large group of littles. I’m a bit concerned about her training with much older girls, mainly because I worry that they will be talking about things that she shouldn’t be exposed to just yet. I’m also a little worried that that the expections will be too high for her because she is 6 and not as old as the other girls. The expectations for focus and independent work habits of a 12 year old should be different than a 6 year old. For those who have a young one training with older ones, have you encountered any issues with a big difference in age? I know my daughter will love training with older girls as she already has some older girls at her current gym who she adores and they treat her with great kindness. But, she also gets limited interactions with them as she doesn’t practice with them. Thanks!
 

GymDadWA

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My DD started at the same age and was regularly working with optional level girls that were in high school, they treated her like a little sister and didn't expose her to anything they shouldn't have. They were very careful with their language and their phones, they had no problems being discreet when showing another older girl something not appropriate for the little ones. We also told our DD that older girls do talk about stuff she wouldn't understand and to not pry into it. Never had an issue.
 

Madden3

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My dd (7) is in acro and consequently practices with a mix of ages including tweens and teens. Last year she was noticeably the youngest, now there are a couple other girls her own age.

I think the focus issue is something to be concerned about, and I would suggest asking a coach about how they handle that. They should have age appropriate expectations.

I have not yet experienced any issues with inappropriate things being talked about in front of my dd, and now that I think about it, I never see phones out during practice even on breaks, so the coaches must not allow them, which is a GOOD policy. At worst the older girls mother my dd quite a bit during practice which can be both a positive or a negative but so far has been fine.

When my sons were younger and practiced with older boys (and even at times boys their own age) they definitely did hear things I wished they had not. This started more about age 9 though. I would hope most tweens and teens would understand that certain things are not appropriate for 6 year olds to hear or see, but you never know.

Back then with my boys, I was glad I felt prepared to answer any questions that came up in an age appropriate way that did not involve me freaking out (externally anyway) or being untruthful, while also putting things in context of the values my husband and I want to pass on to our children. A bit of parenting advice I am forever grateful for was that if my husband and I did not teach our kids, their peers (or strangers online) would.
 

kendo348

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Being the one to introduce the tough topics to your kids is so important. I received the same advice and it has made all the difference in the peace I can feel as a parent.

My daughter spent a few months in the highest rec class before being invited to team. She was seven and the youngest by about four years. Since it wasn’t a team environment there was little focus: the older girls were always goofing off and being obnoxious, testing their limits with the coach. It was hard to watch, and they seemed like girls who for sure had conversations outside of the gym that I wouldn’t approve of for a younger kid... But even in that lax environment they were never inappropriate around her (that said, she kept her distance because she wanted to focus). I would like to think that at most gyms, the general environment of high expectations on team brings with it an elevated awareness of appropriate choices even in situations not spelled out by the coach. Most older team girls would probably be kind and aware, so I wouldn’t worry too much. It’s more than likely a good opportunity for her to have mentors! I’d still mention it to the coach though because you never know - he or she may have a sense for the risk amongst her particular teammates.
 
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raenndrops

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Oct 24, 2009
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I have experience with BOTH sides of this in our time in gym. I would think the coaches would be able to deal with the age difference.
YG was the youngest Optional gymnast in our gym for 3 years. She was 9 at the time. The next youngest in her training group was 12 years old and the oldest was 16. For the most part, the girls watched what they said / watched / did.
Last season, with our team trending older now, the coaches did have to have a talk with all the Optional girls about appropriate conversation topics because we "have an 11 year old in the group." Actually, we had 2 11 year olds, but one of them always gets mistaken for older since she is 5'6" tall.
 

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