Having a child who loves to play sports and be active is something that many parents will encourage. Team sports and athletics can benefit a child as they grow up, but that doesn’t mean they don’t come with challenges. While you want to keep your child safe physically, protecting their mental health is just as important. We’ll go over some of the best ways to support mental health in young athletes so that you feel better equipped to be there for them.
“Failures,” such as losing a match or not performing as well as one knows they can, are normal parts of any athletic career. For younger athletes, especially small children, these supposed “failures” can be devastating to their self-esteem. A parent’s job isn’t to berate their child for not succeeding but to reframe those instances as opportunities to learn. Having a bad game isn’t a completely negative thing when your child knows there’s something they can take away from it, allowing them to come back stronger next time.
Don’t Be Overcompetitive
You have likely seen parents that get overly competitive at their child’s games or matches, or maybe you’ve done it yourself at some point. Healthy competition can be a great way to push your child to reach greater heights, but extreme competition will often take any fun out of the sport. Being overly competitive also puts the burden of your mood on your child’s shoulders. They may feel that they’ve angered you or made you sad if they don’t do well enough, which can lead to mental health issues later on.
Teach the Importance of Recovery
Improving skills in any sport isn’t a constant push with no breaks. Taking time to recover from heavy activity is essential. Teaching your child how important recovery periods are for improvement will help them protect their bodies from abuse, but it can also help build their mental fitness as well. Taking time away from the heavy pressure of athletics is healthy and will allow them to play again with more vigor after they recover.
Recognize When They Need Professional Assistance
Parents are human beings just like everyone else, and you can’t solve every problem your child might have. If you can tell they’re working too hard or pushing themselves beyond what’s healthy, it’s important to ask what you can do to help. In the case of serious mental illness, such as anxiety or depression disorders, you may need professional help to put them back on the right path. There’s no shame in reaching out for help, especially if you’re doing it to support your child.
The best way to support a young athlete’s mental health is to be there for them and be their biggest supporter. That will mean more than you realize as they grow up.