As a parent on the sidelines, it can be challenging to watch your little competitor have a tough day on the field or in the gym. As Christine Phillips of Christy's Gymnastics in Flushing notes, "So much of what children feel in sports has to do with expectations - both the expectations of the kids and those of the parents." No child expects to get picked last for a team, for example, but it happens; and it is a parent's role to help a child navigate the emotional fallout from such a disappointing instance. Remember that these heart-wrenching moments for you can also be valuable life lessons for your kids. To help you handle them, we asked local experts to answer the following question:
|How should I handle it when my child is frustrated or upset after a particularly bad day with sports?
Advice from experts in the Brooklyn area:
"Try to have them go on with the day as normally as possible. Discussing a loss - or even a win, for that matter - for too long can work negatively going forward. Focus on the fact that its always just going to be a game, and that there will be more games to come. For a child whose skill level might not be on par with friends or teammates, here you should focus on the other areas that a child might excel in. 'So baseball isn't your best thing, but you sure are great at Ms. Pac Man,' say, or 'I'll bet they didn't win first prize at the science fair!' All kids should know their strengths and weaknesses and learn to embrace both. Learning these lessons, more importantly, will helps kids learn who they are."
-Jack Grosbard, owner, Mill Basin Day Camp
"When a kid has a disappointing day on the field, I believe it is key to project to the child that we are on their side. Why not try telling a personal story of a time when you were down and bounced back? It doesn't have to be sports-related. I think this can help kids see that we all go through days like this. We don't always get what we want all the time, and the only way to get better is to work that much harder. Try to help them see the positive that can come from overcoming an obstacle like being picked last for a team. For instance, 'Susie, you may have been picked last, but without the fantastic throw-in from you, Eric never would have scored that last goal.' Be specific and sincere. Stay positive and real - and be their number one fan."
-Shadrach Gonzalez Fher, coach and founder, Soccer by Coach Fher, locations throughout NYC
"If a kid isn't doing well playing baseball or any other sport, a parent should give advice similar to what they would if their child received a low mark in school. Assure the child that it is not totally his or her fault, but that if they put in an effort to do their best - through practice and paying attention to others who can help them - then they will improve. Ask the child to think about what makes an athlete. It is a person who not only practices and exercises, but who eats healthy food and gets a good night's sleep as often as possible, too! If the child is invested in improving, you can play with him outside or take him to a batting cage, say, to help him learn. Remember that actions speak louder than words - so spending some quality time with your kid shows him that you care how he does."
-Steve Poliseno, owner, Astoria Sports Complex, Astoria, Queens
"A tactful teacher or parent can recognize when a melancholy youth needs a helping hand or whether he or she would be better served by picking him/herself up. No encouraging phrase will work across the spectrum, so it is most important to remain attentive and openminded. Avoid presumptions. Listen to your child. Allow him to share his pain, and help him put the experience in perspective. Sometimes that's the best medicine - simply being there to share the pain. When children are given the space to learn from their own experiences, they are given an opportunity to discover their talents and see that everyone is good at something."
-Tom Hershner, lead teacher, Camp ROC, The Resource and Opportunity Center Summer Program, locations throughout NYC
Do you have kids heading off to summer camp? Learn how to deal with the inevitable separation anxiety, and find other great advice from experts in your area at NYMetroParents.com/AskTheExperts.