Watching your son or daughter playing a sport can be an emotional experience. They are putting themselves out there, and you want them to do well. Here’s how to support your young athletes while focusing on the important aspects of the activity.
Step one: be there
Plan ahead for your child’s sporting event or practice. Put all of their practices and competitions in your calendar, and arrange your schedule so you can attend as many of these dates as possible. Use this weather app to stay informed on incoming storms and systems so you know whether to pack sunscreen or an umbrella and dress your child appropriately. One of the simplest ways you can support your young athlete is just to show up. Watch them play. Having you in the crowd as a spectator will make them feel like they have their own personal cheerleader.
Don’t be that mom
Focus on the positive and downplay the losses. Your child is taking part in this sport because he or she loves it but they also want to make you proud. They know when they have failed or performed at a lower standard than they usually do. Likely their coach is keeping them well aware of how they can do better. You don’t need to point out any failings. Don’t be the parent who shames their child for their mistakes, in public or in private. Just highlight the solid teamwork, the singular successes, and the active participation. Encourage them to get out there and do their best. Everyone is good at something. Help your son or daughter to discover what that is for them.
Consider the possibilities
As your young athlete matures and his or her interests develop, you may find they are changing their focus from one sport to another or from sports to something else entirely. You might have invested a fair amount of money on registration or equipment for hockey, soccer or baseball but a change in interests is part of growing up. Make sure your son or daughter is exposed to a variety of sports, but also introduce them to music, local theater, and the arts. Get them a library card. Take them to events featuring other sports and let them try new things. Part of being a supportive parent is being flexible. Your child will gain and lose interest in a number of different activities while they are discovering what they really enjoy doing.
Finally, give yourself permission to be less than perfect. It’s impossible to be all things at all times. If you are facing a busy week of work and social events, you may not be able to cook a healthy meal for your family. Try preparing meals ahead of time on a weekend afternoon. But if you just can’t find the time, the occasional trip to a fast-food outlet before or after a game can also be a treat or reward for a game well played.