This is for all parents that just can’t stand seeing their child come home sulky and upset after a long hard day of training. It has to be so difficult to watch them cry or see them in a bad mood after what you thought should have been a positive experience.
I decided to write this little article that will give you some options and tips so that you can make your little hard working athlete happier.
I MUST address before I start, that as a coach I can tell you that the worst thing you can do as a parent is try and get involved and fix their issues! This is their sport, not yours. I know it is hard to see your child sad or disappointed but it is their job to fix their problems. They will not learn how to be responsible for their own feelings and issues if they do not address it themselves.
That being said lets go ahead with this!
Obviously the first thing you do when you see that your child is upset after training is ask them what happened. They may tell you or they may not. If they do, make sure you take the time to listen because sometimes all they need is someone to talk to or even just to hear them out.
That leads us to the first way of helping your athlete cheer up after a yucky day.
1) LISTEN TO THEM! DON’T SOLVE
When we are upset, we don’t always need someone to give us options and solutions to feel better. Sometimes just talking about it is enough. If your child is open to talking about what happened that day, I would suggest not giving your input on their situation. Listen to what they have to say because often that is all they need. If your child is a competitive athlete, they know their sport. Infact, they know it better than you. 9 times out of 10 they already understand what is needed from them to make sure that they do not have this same negative experience repeated again. Usually their coach would have drilled a probable solution into their head during training or they have already come up with one themselves. Try not to get involved. They don’t need any further input from anyone else. You are their parents and so they come to you for comfort, not answers. It may seem like they are looking for answers but unless you have personally done the sport and worked through their negative experience, you will not have the answers they need. It is only natural to try and provide solutions for someone who is upset especially when they mean the world to you. Comfort is their best friend right then, so be that for them.
The next way to improve your child’s mood after training is something a little different.
2) PROVIDE A FOOD DISTRACTION
This one can be something fun and exciting for everyone involved. When your child gets home from training I bet the first thing they do is EAT! If it isn’t they probably didn’t work hard enough! (wink wink) Make this fun for them! I mean, who doesn’t love food? I would NOT recommend going for ice cream, treats or fast food because I can promise you there will be many more disappointing training days to come. The last thing you need is for your child to want Dairy Queen or donuts after every bad training day.
If it is later at night they are not usually eating a huge meal. Apple slices with a little caramel and cinnamon is always a fun snack. You can substitute the caramel with peanut butter which would be a more substantial option for a growing athlete or even a little chocolate spread if you are feeling they could use a little more excitement. Be creative and switch out the cinnamon for some sprinkles or chocolate flakes. Do not let them go crazy with the dip and toppings. It should be something small so they do not feel sick before bed. I can bet you anything that a little smile will appear on their cute face when they hear that they get to have a fun and yummy snack. It should have a warm and cozy feel to it so they can go to bed remembering something happy.
If they are finishing an afternoon or morning training, they will probably need to eat lunch or dinner. I recommend going home and cooking something simple with them. Give them tasks to follow while they help you cook so they can stay busy and distracted. Cooking with mom or dad is always fun for any kid! I find cooking with my mom one of the most exciting things to do on my spare time even as an adult! Feel free to include the whole family. Their minds will be distracted from the yucky training day and more focused on spending time with family. Don’t forget to enjoy what you created together!
The last one is very simple but is the most effective in my opinion.
3) SPEND TIME WITH ONLY THEM
One thing I know for a fact is that your child strives for alone time with mom or dad. I remember as a child being so excited when my parents had time to spend with only me. I felt so special that I got their sole attention. This is essential especially when you have other children at home as well.
As a competitive athlete you have probably noticed that your your child is very independent and can accomplish tasks on his or her own. Your child’s motivation to make sure homework and daily activities are done in a timely manner is probably outstanding or at least better than the average school kid. Independence is one of the benefits of competitive sport but can also be too much if you do not offer them your attention. Because their independence is so efficient, they often forget to ask for TLC . They usually don’t even realize that they need it or that it will be beneficial because they are focused on their full and precious daily routines. Everyone needs a little TLC every now and then. I am sure you know that about yourself, so what makes your child different? They may be different in the fact that they don’t feel as though it is a priority in their busy schedules, but it doesn’t mean that they don’t need it. Sometimes it is just the thing they need.
If you notice that your young athlete has had a tough day, take them out on a date. Do something fun and special. There are so many things you can do for example: mini golf, movies, amusement parks, Shopping, etc. If your child is coming home upset late at night, obviously you cannot go out together because bed time stands in the way.
Don’t worry there are still options! You can read them a story or play a board game before bed. You can even just lay with them until they fall asleep. I know I felt pretty special when I got to cuddle with mom or dad at a young age.
There are so many more things you can do as a parent to cheer up your sad and disappointed athlete and I look forward to giving you more ideas in the future. For now play with some of these ideas and see what happens. Always remember that it is not your job to fix their problems, even if you feel like it is. You are their comfort when it is needed, not their solution provider. They need to do that themselves.
There are obviously exceptions to this rule depending on the situation, but for the most part it will be up to them and their coach to make sure they have a positive training experience the next day. If there is a problem that you feel is worth bringing up with the coach, do that without your child knowing so that they do not feel stressed or uptight about it. Very often your child will only relay how he or she is feeling after a hard day. They may even share their opinion about a situation that occurred that day. Remember that that is only THEIR perception of what happened and not that of the collaborating parties, so please stay open minded and willing to listen when speaking with their coach about it if you feel it is necessary.
By: Brittany Berezowski
“You are your own most powerful motivator and critic. Which will you be?”