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How to Support Your Child's Mindset as a Busy Sport Parent

Updated: Dec 29, 2023

It's not easy. You're a sport parent. You're juggling a busy job, trying to have a social life and all the other daily commitments that come with life. But not only that, your child is talented at a sport and you'll do anything to help them get as far as they can and see them playing with a smile on their face. You're a super parent, number one fan, taxi, chef, kit man/woman, support figure, role model and more. Not only that, what your child is doing is really tough. They're going to experience challenges they've not experienced before, feel emotions they're not used to, and sacrifice things that other kids take for granted. You want them to thrive, develop, and enjoy this experience as much as possible. You want to support their well-being when the going gets a bit tough. But how? You're so busy! In this blog, I'll suggest some handy tips to make this all slightly easier on you.

Father and son playing football in garden

Use sport to develop closeness

A busy life and a high-performing child can limit your opportunities to develop closeness between yourself and your child. But, your time spent together around sport can actually offer an opportunity to enhance this. Showing investment, interest, and healthy excitement in your child's experience can benefit their perception of your support, their feelings of psychological safety, and make your relationship closer.


Get clear on goals

It's vital to be on the same page as your child in terms of why they're in their sport and what they want to achieve. Whether they want to become a professional or just do it for enjoyment, understanding and sharing their goal ensures you give them the communication and support they want and allows you to use your limited time to support them effectively. Regularly check in with your child to make sure that you're both still on the same page, as many factors can change what your child wants to get out of their sport.


Free up some time to understand your child's experience

Free up some time!? I get it, this sounds a bit contradictory when I'm talking to busy parents, but hear me out. Research has shown that one of the biggest contributors to effective support for youth athletes is a parent that understands the experience their child is going through. This is because they have a better understanding of what their child is facing when they compete, why they react to things the way they do, and what demands their specific sport is putting them under. This is especially important if you aren't knowledgeable about the sport your child plays. I'm not saying you have to be an expert, but continuously developing your knowledge of the sport, what is achievable, or how often you can expect your child to win can really help to develop realistic expectations that don't put your child under unnecessary pressure.


Make emotional support your expertise

Prioritise emotional support. Your child is developing mentally, as well as physically and technically through sport. They are likely experiencing strong emotions often, and often these may feel unpleasant, new, or aren't fully understood by your child. One simple but effective thing you can do as a parent is to listen out for your child mentioning these emotions, validate them and normalise the experience of difficult emotions. For example, your child might mention feeling really nervous and feel as though that's wrong. They see you as superman or superwoman. A hero adult that doesn't experience these weird emotions they're feeling. So, a simple thing you can do to normalise that feeling is to tell them about a time when you felt that emotion. Show them that emotions are a sign that we care about something, not that something's wrong with us. And despite feeling that way, you were still able to do what you intended. This lets them know that it's okay to feel these emotions and that they can be there without throwing off the way they play.


Target transition time

If you're extra, extra busy you might not always be able to support your child in sport as much as you'd like, but key periods to target where support will be vital is during transitions. Transitions are periods when your child may experience significant change, such as moving teams, moving up into a new age category, going through injury, or the retain and release process in football. These are key moments that are often very psychologically demanding for young athletes, so having their key support members around them is key to managing these experiences.


You don't need to be a car-coach

Use the precious time you have transporting your child to and from training and competitions wisely. Use it to build closeness, provide emotional support, and enjoy your time together. Ask your child what they want from you in the car, instead of telling them what they need. Giving them feedback on training or competition that they haven't asked to hear takes away the opportunity for them to reflect on themselves and work out how to develop independently. It also wastes valuable time that could be spent improving all the great stuff I just mentioned.


Invest in mindset training

Mindset coaching equips youth athletes with the key skills needed to develop important mental qualities on their own. If your child can manage the demands of their sport more independently it prepares them for transitioning into older age categories where this will be needed and decreases their reliance on you as a parent to provide that support. Whilst our Kickstart Mindset Training programme is mainly designed for footballers, it was created with all youth athletes in mind and we prioritise the skills and qualities youth athletes need to thrive and support themselves as much as they can.


Engage in your own self-care

Lastly, prioritise your own self-care! To support your child the best way possible being energised, present, rested and enthusiastic is really important. I know it can seem impossible, but making even a small amount of time in your diary to do something you enjoy or find relaxing can make a difference to your well-being and your child.

 

Being a sport parent is a full-time job in itself, involving the person you care most about. It's an incredibly hard role and comes with a big expectation to know exactly what to do. But mistakes are human, and if you feel like there's room to improve how you support your child in sport, that's okay! I hope you find these tips useful and easy to put into practice.


If you want to join a community of like-minded sport parents looking to discover ways your child can handle the challenges and pressure of sport so they can become the best version of themselves, subscribe to the Challenger Zone email newsletter here! With this, you'll receive a FREE mental imagery checklist to help your child discover the transformational effects of mental imagery with just your email address! Alternatively, if you feel your child may benefit from mindset training to help them make the switch from self-critic to self-compassionate, book a FREE 20-minute enquiry call here, or, get in touch via Whatsapp at 07950378048 or by emailing Ross@challenger-mindset.com.



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