Children need to move! Their health depends on it and what is a better way than to take an adventure or learn a new sport! Here are a few tips to keep your children mentally healthy while getting them physically moving and building skills to last a lifetime!
It is proven that the more fun a child is having, the more they will learn and the better they will perform. Fun must be present for this to happen at every level of sports from youth to world class competitors! When a child stops having fun and begins to dread practice or competition, it’s time for us as parents to become concerned! An easy rule of thumb: If your child is not enjoying what they are doing, nor loving the heck out of it, investigate! What is going on that’s preventing them from having fun? Is it the coaching? The pressure? Is it me as a parent? Keep in mind that being in a highly competitive program does not mean that there is no room for fun.
Children of all ages and levels perform in direct relationship to how they feel about themselves. When your child is in an athletic environment that boosts self-esteem, he/she will learn faster, enjoy themselves more and perform better under competitive pressure. One thing we all want as children and never stop wanting is to be loved and accepted, and to have our parents feel good about what we do. This is how self-esteem gets established. When your interactions with your child make them feel good about themselves, they will, in turn, learn to treat themselves this very same way. This does not mean that you must constantly compliment your child for a great effort after they have just performed miserably. In this situation being empathic and sensitive to his/her feelings is what’s called for.
Self-esteem makes the world go round. Make your child feel good about themselves and you’ve given them a gift that lasts a lifetime.
Comparisons are useless, inaccurate and destructive. Each child matures differently; for example, two 10-year-old boys may only have their age in common! One may physically have the build and perform like a 14-year-old while the other, a late developer, may have the physical size and attribute of an 8-year-old. Performance comparisons can prematurely turn off otherwise talented athletes on their sport.
When learning to perform at any sport, a child is totally oblivious to the outcome and instead is completely absorbed in the here and now of the actual performance. Keep this mentality for life! Focusing on the outcome, which is completely out of the child’s control, will raise their anxiety to a performance inhibiting level. So, if you truly want your child to win, help get their focus away from how important the contest is and have them focus on the task at hand. Try supporting by de-emphasizing winning and instead stress learning the skills and playing the game.
One of the main purposes of the youth sports experience is skill acquisition and formation of friendships. When a child performs to their potential and loses, focusing on the outcome becomes critical. If a child plays their very best and loses, parents should help them feel like a winner! Similarly, when a child or team performs far below their potential but wins, this is not cause to feel like a winner. Let’s help children make this important separation between success and failure and winning and losing. Remember, if you define success and failure in terms of winning and losing, you may be playing a losing game with your child!