By Janis Meredith
Watching your child play sports is fun; facing the stress of the financial, emotional, and physical demands is not.
What is it about your child’s sport that stresses you? Do you worry he will not play well? Are you pulled in too many directions trying to keep up with the demands? Can you stand another game listening to overprotective and whining parents? Do you breathe a sigh of relief after each game that your child did not get hurt?
After being a sports mom for 21 years, I’ve felt all of those stresses. You will face them too, and here’s how to handle the stress.
Find a safe place to vent. Choose one person—husband, friend, sister, parent—who can sympathetically listen without feeding your frustration. That one person should not be your child.
Face your fears. Ask yourself: what am I really afraid of and what is the worst that could happen? For instance, if you worry about your child being injured in a volleyball game, what’s the worst that could happen? Maybe she would miss a few games? Or her season would end? Or she’d have to get surgery? If that happens, the world will not end. If she loves the sport, she will be back stronger than ever.
Sometimes, looking ahead to the worst and thinking about how we would deal with it, helps us face today with more confidence and less worry.
Give your kid credit. I’m pretty sure that parents worry more about their kids’ frustrations than kids do. In some ways, kids are tougher than we think. Give them a little credit. Maybe they can fight the battle without you wielding the sword for them.
There have been many times when I itched to step in and take care of my child’s problem, but held back. And boy, am I glad I did! Not only would I have made an idiot of myself, I would have missed seeing my child resolve the issue in his own way and robbed him of some character growth in the process.
Learn to say N.O. every time you say Y.E.S. Is your life busy now? If so, how can you possibly take on more without adding stress? You can maintain some sanity by exchanging every yes for a no. For every new task or responsibility you take on, let one go.
Your child doesn’t have to be in three sports at once. It’s okay if you aren’t the team mom this year. And honestly, your house does not have to be spotless during a busy sports season. Don’t worry about what others think; it’s okay to be picky about your time.
Avoid the craziness. If it’s over-the-top parents that add stress to your life. Avoid them. If it’s obnoxious spectators that make your blood boil, move your seat. If you can’t stand the coach, practice detached cordiality (you don’t have to be his best friend, but you don’t have to be an enemy either).
Sometimes it’s just better to step back from the fray and let the chaos continue without you. Others may perceive you as reserved or even snobby; but you know you are merely staying sane.
Get a life! I have wanted to say that to many parents who are so wrapped up in their child’s sport that they lose sight of what is really important. Their fanatical behavior screams “I have no life other than my child’s sports!” Can you imagine the stress in that household!
I love the way my kids maintained a life outside of sports—hanging with friends, going to youth group, even going on trips. Having a life outside of sports gave them balance and re-invigorated them to get back at the game.
As you and your child-athlete walk away from youth sports, you will know that if you learned to cope with stress within the snapshot of sports, you can learn to handle it in the bigger picture of life.