THE EMOTIONAL ROLLER COASTER OF BEING A SPORTS PARENT
It is no easy task being the parent of a child athlete. Raising active children is a challenge, perhaps even more so in the current scenario. In an increasingly winner-takes-all society, parents are often pressured to push themselves and their children to achieve more and more. There is a success = self-worth philosophy unconsciously being propagated. As parents, you always want the best for your children. This simple statement has no end and no beginning to it.
To what lengths do you go as parents, to ensure this happens?
Distinguishing between us and them:
Parents get equally involved in their child’s sport by putting in time, money, resources etc.; not to mention the emotional involvement. As a parent, you experience the same rush of positive emotions when your child wins and a sense of emptiness when they lose. You experience pride, courage, determination, etc. by the simple activities that you do to ensure your child is well taken care of.
For e.g. taking care of their nutrition, making sure they attend every practice, accompanying them for games etc.
This emotional process can become quite addictive. You get caught up in seeking more experiences where you feel that rush of positive emotions.
Often, parents confuse their goal and ambition with their child’s. It is important to draw this distinction here as under the guise of doing what’s best for the child, they connect it to winning and success. Most of the time, the child has not cognitively developed completely to understand this concept and plays the game merely for fun.The child enjoys the game and eventually, may develop the skill for it. They have a very simple a= b equation (“I enjoy it so I will play it”).
Children are like sponges who will absorb your thoughts, emotions and feelings.
Now think of a 12 year old with your 40 years of ambitions and feelings inside him. It becomes overwhelming for the child to process simply because they have not fully developed cognitively or emotionally. Hence, as parents we need to be mindful of what our thoughts, goals and ambitions are and how it is different from our child’s.
The Thinking Traps:
It is a difficult notion to change but parents have to be mindful or at least aware of these thinking traps to allow the child to develop. Let’s have a look at some of these psychological pitfalls:
Over-identification: You naturally identify with your child, but over-identification may lead you to ignoring your child’s feelings and focusing instead on your own.
Selfish dreaming: As parents it is quite normal to dream about your child’s future, but sometimes parents get so attached to their own dreams that they lose sight of what the child wants.
Confusing investment with sacrifice: As a parent, you love your children so much that you are willing to make tremendous sacrifices on their behalf, spending money to support the child’s sport and taking the time to be there for the child. But sometimes, you may come to see these sacrifices as investments and then expect that the investments will pay off and yield tangible benefits.
Competing with other parents:You want your child to excel but it's easy to get caught up in competing with other parents, pushing your child to succeed and hoping that the other children will fail, giving your child a chance to shine.
Your role: Sometimes, parents feel they know what is best for their child and undermine coaches and official’s authority. It is an insecurity that is coming to the forefront and needs to be addressed rather than acted upon.
A parent’s greatest strength - their unwavering emotional support of their child and their willingness to make sacrifices for their child’s athletic advancement - is thus also their greatest weakness.