There is no doubt that young people will be feeling disappointed with the loss of sport. Parents can’t erase the disappointment their children feel, particularly where seasons have ended abruptly or events have been cancelled, but there are ways they can support them through the disappointment.
Over the past fortnight the impact of COVID-19 has hit the sports world starting with the cancellation of major events and professional competitions through to the postponement and cancellation of youth sport. For some young people, they were about to participate in the apex of their season. Other young people were about to start their winter season.
Learning how to process disappointment is a life skill, and communication is key. Verbalising feelings and acknowledging disappointment helps young people work through the range of emotions and provides important support. Initiating an open conversation when there are no distractions and you’re alone together can be a helpful way for young people to process their feelings.
- Be open to talking about their feelings
- Let them open up at their own pace
- Listen to them, without adding your own judgement
If they don’t want to talk to you, don’t take it personally and let them know that you’re there for them if they do want to talk. They might also feel more comfortable talking to someone else about it, so you could suggest they call their coach or a teammate for a chat.
And while there are significant challenges and obvious disappointments as a result of the cancellations and postponements, opportunities and new ideas start to emerge.
Firstly, there are a number of international organisations sharing information for parents to help them navigate their way through what is a truly unprecedented worldwide event. Some of the strategies that have emerged from Positive Coaching Alliance to help parents support young players socially and emotionally during the pandemic include:
- Set up routines to help normalise the situation as much as possible (skill practices or free play in place of team trainings after school)
- If it allows, play with your child in the sport of their choice in the backyard or driveway, or practice certain skills and drills within the home if possible
- Remind your child what has been achieved – shifting the focus away from outcomes and reflecting on the learnings and the journey through the season.
Secondly, while there’s a break in the sport calendar there’s a great opportunity for parents to reintroduce free play. Gone for now are the never-ending hectic sports schedules while eating dinner in the car. With organised sports on hold, take advantage of this time by encouraging your child to creatively enjoy practicing and playing sports (within the context of lockdown regulations). Let kids play on their own terms.
Thirdly, re-examine your own balance with sports – and that of your child’s. This is a good time to reflect, talk to your child and think about what they’re getting out of the sports they’re playing. Is your child having the best experience possible? Have you followed your child’s lead and asked what he or she wants?
Youth sport has been and will continue to be a great platform to develop young people through character development. The current challenge we’re facing in the world will certainly give us all a great lesson in resilience, determination, and selflessness to name a few.
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