As a parent on the sidelines, it can be challenging to watch your little competitor have a tough day on the field or in the gym. So much of what children feel in sports has to do with expectations - both the expectations of the children, and those of the parents. No child expects to get picked last for a team, for example, but it happens; and it is a parent's role to help a child navigate the emotional fallout from such a disappointing instance. Remember that these heart-wrenching moments for you can also be valuable life lessons for your kids. Chris Vollaro, director at Manhattan's Gymtime Rhythm and Glues, encourages: "Always remember that if you are excited about what your child is doing, they will be excited to stick with it and always do their best." To help you handle the trickier days, we asked local experts to answer the following question:
|How should I handle it when my child is frustrated or upset after a particularly bad day with sports?
Advice from experts in the Manhattan area:
"When a kid has a disappointing day on the field, I believe it is key to project to the child that we are on their side. Why not try telling a personal story of a time when you were down and bounced back? It doesn't have to be sports-related. I think this can help kids see that we all go through days like this. We don't always get what we want all the time, and the only way to get better is to work that much harder. Try to help them see the positive that can come from overcoming an obstacle like being picked last for a team. For instance, 'Susie, you may have been picked last, but without the fantastic throw-in from you, Eric never would have scored that last goal.' Be specific and sincere. Stay positive and real-and be their number one fan."
-Shadrach Gonzalez Fher, coach and founder, Soccer by Coach Fher, locations throughout NYC
"Point out the positive things that they are doing, and always encourage them to continue to participate as long as they are having fun. Sports should be a tool for exercise, socialization, and stimulation. If your child has a tough day, go home and spend special time doing something you love to do together - reading a favorite book, playing a fun family game. And while you are both engaged doing that, you can talk to your child about the importance of having fun in sports, of not putting pressure on oneself to perform, but instead focusing on fun times had on the field. It is important to put yourself in your child's position: How would you feel if you were picked last? Children are too smart to hear something like, 'They saved the best for last.' My advice would be to explain the idea of the team concept. A team is a group of individuals trying to acheive the same goal-and being a part of a team is something very special. If that does not work, I suggest going to the coach privately to let him or her know how your child is feeling. As a coach myself, I would appreciate such feedback, and I would allow your child to be the person who picks the teams the next time."
-Chris Vollaro, director and coach, Gymtime Rhythm and Glues, Upper East Side
"A tactful teacher or parent can recognize when a melancholy youth needs a helping hand or whether he or she would be better served by picking him/herself up. No encouraging phrase will work across the spectrum, so it is most important to remain attentive and openminded. Avoid presumptions. Listen to your child. Allow him to share his pain, and help him put the experience in perspective. Sometimes that's the best medicine - simply being there to share the pain. When children are given the space to learn from their own experiences, they are given an opportunity to discover their talents and see that everyone is good at something."
-Tom Hershner, lead teacher, Camp ROC, The Resource and Opportunity Center Summer Program, locations throughout NYC
"The only way you get ahead is to have perseverance, self-confidence, and motivation. Children need to hear the message that they should believe in themselves. You can reiterate to them that even the most successful people in the world have struggled through turmoil to get where they are. Through strife, we grow to be people who appreciate things in life. I truly believe that struggling makes us all stronger people and prepares us to better handle other obstacles we may face in the future. It is true that there is a hero inside everyone. And only through hard work - and sometimes rejection - do we finally reach our goals, whether in sports or in other aspects of life. They may be cliches, but important messages for children to hear in these situations include, 'If at first you don't succeed, try, try again' and 'Good things come to those who wait.' If a child is picked last for a team, for instance, he may be feeling inadequate; encourage him to celebrate someone else's success and to be a person that can share in others' glory."
-Elizabeth Grant, educational director, Tribeca Early Childhood Learning Center
Do you have kids heading off to summer camp? Learn how to deal with the inevitable separation anxiety, and find other great advice from experts in your area at NYMetroParents.com/AskTheExperts.
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