Sports parenting can be rewarding, fun, and life-changing. This is especially true if you yourself were an athlete back in the days. Now, you can share a deeper bond with your child since you both have a love for sports. Your child may be the same, but different in many ways. Just because you have an idea of how it was like to be a student-athlete doesn’t necessarily mean your child will have the same experiences and challenges.
For one, this could be your first time parenting a student-athlete. This is never an easy task whether you’ve been an athlete yourself or not. The following are just four things every parent ought to know when supporting a student-athlete.
A Sports Injury Can Do More Than Cause Pain
Any parent would worry about their kids getting injured. They will surely want the best professionals to provide the right sports injury treatment option for their kids. But what many sports parents fail to realize is that the injury does more than just cause pain and discomfort to an athlete.
In reality, even a minor injury can be enough to mess with an athlete’s mental health. Any student-athlete is afraid to miss out on training and be at a disadvantage for missing lots of practice. They are afraid that they have disappointed their team, coach, parents, and their school for getting injured at the worst time.
Even if the injury only caused them to temporarily miss practice and a single game season, it can be enough to make them angry, frustrated, and helpless. These can lead to mental health issues like anxiety, depression, substance use, and disordered eating.
What parents can do is to ensure their kids get the right kind of support to help them overcome their mental struggles. This can mean taking them to the right professionals to better facilitate their recovery. It is also important that parents ensure their kids are eating properly, are sleeping on time, and can talk to them whenever they need it.
Burnout is Common Even to Kids Who Excel
Even the best student-athletes can experience burnout. This can lead to performance issues, academic decline, and recurring injuries due to them pushing themselves to the limits. Some were so stressed out that they stopped doing sports altogether or committed to ruining their body just to try to get their momentum back.
Some student-athletes were burned out because of the unrealistic expectations of the people around them, especially of their parents. When they fail to perform as the parents expected them to do, this can lead to depression. The ride home after a failed event can increase their anxiety tenfold, leading them to succumb to unhealthy habits as a way of coping.
Parents should manage their expectations for kids. They should never force kids to only focus on their studies and sports. Allow them to enjoy doing other activities to lessen their burdens.
Your Child Will Have Different Goals and Motivations
Have you ever tried asking your kids why they chose sports as their extracurricular activity? Are they trying to pursue their own passion? Or are they only trying to please their parent who has unfulfilled goals or unfinished business in sports?
Sometimes, sports parents were so happy after learning their kids had taken an interest in their previous sports that they become blinded by their own interests. Realize that your kids have their own motivations and that their goals may be different from your own. Manage your expectations and respect your kids if they need a break.
Avoid overdoing your nostalgic recollections in an attempt to push your kids to be great. There is a thin line between motivating kids and pressuring and expecting them to win every single time.
Your Child Don’t Need False Reassurance
Most parents would give their kids false reassurance, thinking this is the best way to ease their worries and stress. In reality, this will only give them false hope and can only exacerbate their anxiety. What you want is to help them learn to deal with their anxiety on their own and not to always rely on you to deal with unpleasant emotions.
Repeated and excessive reassurance will not help with your kids’ confidence. You want them to gain enough self-esteem that they can handle their own battles in time. Your role is to help them learn that sometimes, things won’t always go how they want it to be and that they need to learn how to be strong and resilient.
If you are going to reassure your kids, make sure to only do it once. You don’t want to water down your message. Teach them different coping and relaxing strategies and help them build their confidence.
Parenting a student-athlete is never easy. Many have insecurities while others struggle with mental health issues. The last thing your kids need is you adding to their stress and worries. Knowing what student-athletes often go through will make it easier to understand and support their kids better.