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Counseling Corner: Making sports a healthy part of a child’s life

American Counseling Assoc. | 5/5/2019, noon
We live in a society that places a great deal of emphasis on sports. We see professional athletes paid astronomical ...
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American Counseling Assoc.

We live in a society that places a great deal of emphasis on sports. We see professional athletes paid astronomical salaries and find the broadcast airways filled with almost endless coverage of all types of sporting events.

All that visibility has an effect. While for many kids it certainly builds interest in participating, it also can make some parents feel it’s vitally important that they push their child to participate and stand out in sports.

Playing a sport when a child has an interest and when it’s part of a balanced life can provide many benefits, but when it’s parents driving a child to not just participate but to excel in order to meet the parent’s expectations, it can often have a harmful result.

Sports, of course, require physical activity and not just more video game controller time. Being active is a positive thing for every child, but this doesn’t mean every child has to be a football, baseball, soccer or volleyball star.

As parents we want to encourage our children to try new things. What matters is how that “encouragement” takes place. If a parent introduces a child to a new sports activity in a gentle, positive way, and tries to be supportive and helpful in teaching the fundamentals and building confidence, it can be a good means of opening up a new, enjoyable interest for the child.

But if a child is literally forced or shamed into participating, and the child’s objections and fears about the activity are ignored, that child is not a willing participant. He or she may be more harmed by their anxiety and stress than helped by the physical activity being gained, especially when a parent criticizes or teases about subpar performances.

When a sport is a poor fit for a child you’ll find him or her skipping practices, faking illnesses and complaining endlessly about having to participate. That’s a time to listen to your child.

Pushing a child into a sport where he or she doesn’t have the ability or interest to participate satisfactorily is actually a means of eroding the child’s self-esteem and confidence. What you want is a healthy participation where the child is playing well and meeting normal expectations.

The child doesn’t have to be the star. The main goals should be exercise, learning new skills, building confidence, learning to play with others and, most importantly, having a good time.

Counseling Corner is provided by the American Counseling Association. Comments and questions can be sent to acacorner@counseling.org or visit http://www.counseling.org.

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