Parents may feel powerless when they see that their child is feeling left behind or left out in youth sports.
Maybe your child is not as strong of an athlete as their teammates and is always trying to keep up. Or perhaps your child is struggling to fit in with the group or gain approval from a coach.
Because our natural instinct is to protect, parents often respond to these scenarios by stepping in and working to solve the problem themselves. When kids finally share their feelings and experiences, parents reach for their phones to text friends, email authorities and post on social media. Unfortunately, that may drive kids into even more isolation.
What if you tried this approach instead?
Problem-solve with your child. Begin by listening to what they say. Ask questions to make sure you understand. Show empathy to your child. Let them know that you understand how hard the situation is and that you want to help and provide support. Brainstorm four or five solutions and talk about the good and bad of each. Then, make a plan of action together.
Give your child tools to fight back. Give your child ideas for how to challenge others in a positive way by breaking down barriers.
For instance, if a teammate tells your child they aren’t a good enough player to be on the team, your child could respond with “I may not be the best, but I work hard, and I will get better if I keep practicing.”
It’s important for your child to know they don’t just have to sit there and take the negative talk. There are ways to respond that will often diffuse mean behavior. Talk with your child about what those responses are.
Plan for connecting opportunities. Look for ways to help your child better relationships. Set up play dates if your child is small. For older children, offer to drive the kids to the game or host a team meal at your house. If your child is in middle or high school, encourage them to invite peers and teammates to the house.
I’ve seen my three kids go through many times of feeling left out or seasons of friend struggles. It was always best for me to watch from afar and not interfere. We talked, we brainstormed, we prayed, and we sought answers and solutions. In the end, they always figured it out for themselves. As hard as it was to back off, I knew this was the best for their growth in the end.
Janis Meredith is a family life coach who wants to help all parents raise champions. You can find out more at rcfamilies.com.