As children master a sport, they are influenced by what they see. Every experience, every game, teaches them a life lesson. Through the ups and downs, parents watch their children mature and gain the tools they need to thrive.
Teenage athletes need consistent positive examples of self-care. Provide your children with subtle reminders and good conversations.
Here is a checklist for the talk you should have with your teen about sports early on. I like to call it the "Birds and the Bees of Sports." I'm a chiropractor, and the list is based on my observations of patients and their families.
DON'T: It's not just about winning. Don't focus on a loss as just that. It's easy for teenagers to stay in a negative place if they can't see the big picture.
DO: This concept can get lost quickly in the adolescent world: Winning should be looked at as an accomplishment of hard work. Remind your child that training and time management are major foundations for successful outcomes. Winning doesn't happen by chance or just because you made it to a certain level. Losing is also an achievement, a time for growth. Ask your kids what they learned from a game that didn't have the outcome they were hoping for. It's about guiding their emotions from a negative place into a productive place.
DON'T: Tell them to suck it up.
DO: Encourage your children to check in when something is not right. Scrapes and cuts are in a different category from shoulder pain and knee pain. When a child feels in control of his or her body, he or she is more likely to report health issues. Treatments are not a sign of weakness, but a way to get back into the game safely. Being unable to play for a few days vs. being out for a whole season is easy for a teen to comprehend. Talk to your kids about injuries and reinforce the obvious truth that you are their parent and not their coach.
DON'T: Assume sports drinks are enough.
DO: Encourage water consumption at all times. Dehydration can onset even if an athlete is not thirsty. Share this calculation with them: Half of your body weight is the number of ounces you need daily. If you weigh 160 pounds, half is 80. There are 8 ounces in one glass of water, so 10 glasses is optimal. Keep water in the fridge and on the dinner table; add berries for flavor. Encourage the habit.
DON'T: Ever dismiss symptoms.
DO: Ask questions. Look for changes in symptoms if your child has suffered an injury. Always encourage your young athletes to be honest with their complaints. Let them know they have your trust and that safety comes first to ensure they stay in the game long-term.
DON'T: Assume they don't doubt or question their own ability.
DO: Implement strategies that promote a positive attitude. Affirmations are easy to remember and can be repeated in any situation. An affirmation has the ability to program your mind into believing the stated concept. Suggest these as place for your athlete to begin:
- I Am Success!
- I Will Win This Day!
- My Will Is Stronger Than Any Force in The World!
- I Perform To The Best of My Abilities Each Day!
- I Am Completely Focused on My Goal!
The goal of communicating about difficult topics is to make your child's sports experience rewarding. If you are unsure about how to implement these strategies, start with: "Do you want to talk about it?" Then make it specific to the situation you are in. Parental relationships are and should be different from those of a coach or teammate.