How to encourage your youth sports child when times are tough

By Janis Meredith | Posted 8/23/2017

Youth sports is a roller coaster of emotions, for parents and kids. When your child is at a low point, climbing out of the dumps of discouragement is a daunting task.

There is no magic pill for curing discouragement. The only way to pull your children out of the dumps is to help them pull themselves out. Remember these three truths as your child deals with despair.

1. Listen and seek to understand

When your kids are having problems, your instinct will be to try to fix them with words. But I have found, after 30 years of parenting, the best way to help my child start the upward climb out of the dumps is to be a good listener, one who focuses on what my child is saying, one who takes the time to listen and absorb my child’s words.

It’s hard for parents not to go off on parental tangents, but your child does not immediately need your words to fix things. There will be a time for words, but first, take the time and the effort to listen.

2. Choose your words

Once you’ve listened and sought to understand, it may be that your child needs to hear your insight. Or not. I’ve had many conversations with my kids and others who felt much better after talking and all I did was listen well.

Carefully chosen words can bring healing and encouragement, so when your child is ready to listen, take your time in answering. It may not be a great idea to say the first thought that comes to mind. Think about what your child needs to hear, instead of just expressing an opinion or your own frustration. What will help your child get through this dismal ordeal?

There’s no easy answer to that question. Some kids need to hear how you got through that same struggle. Others may need you to ask questions to help them sort through the situation and seek a solution. Some children might need outside help from doctors, coaches, or counselors.

Whatever words you choose, remember that your objective is to help your children learn to pull themselves out of the dumps, because ultimately they’re the only ones who can do it anyway. You can try to cheer them up and it may work for a short time, but your coaching and love will help them figure out longer-term solutions and give them tools to fight dumpy days in the future.

3. Close the conversation with love

As you close the conversation, make sure your child hears your unwavering and unconditional love. Even if you said it before, say it again: I love you and am so proud of you. As your children leave the exchange, let those words be the last ones they hear.

Love through the discouragement

Those three things – listening, careful words, and love – are all your children need to help them climb out of the dumps. Be patient with the process. Some discouraging seasons last longer than others. Just keep being their biggest fan and that will give them strength to exit the dumps.

Janis B. Meredith is a sports parenting blogger, podcaster, and life coach. She provides resources to help parents give their children a positive and growing youth sports experience. Learn more about good sports parenting habits in her book 11 Habits for Happy & Positive Sports Parents, available on Amazon.