Youth sports is a roller coaster of emotions, for parents and kids. And when you are at a low point in the ride, it seems like climbing out of the dumps of discouragement is a very daunting task.
Hitting slumps. Dry shooting spells. Missed shots. Or maybe your child feels dejected because of team drama or coaching conflicts.
There is no magic pill for curing discouragement; in fact, the only way to pull your child out of the dumps is to help her pull herself out. Remember these three truths as your child deals with despair.
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 28 years of parenting, that the best way to help my child start the upward climb out of the dumps is to be a very good listener, one that really focuses on what my child is saying, one that takes the time to listen and absorb my child’s words.
I remember one particular conversation when my 20-year-old daughter was sharing her struggle with me and she commented how she hated it when people would listen to someone and immediately turn it into a conversation about themselves–Oh, I’ve been through that and blah, blah, blah–never bothering to return to the initial admission that began the whole conversation.
It’s hard for parents not to go off on parental tangents, but the honest truth is that your child does not immediately need your words to fix him. There will be a time for words, but first, take the time and the effort to listen extremely.
Choose Your Words.
Once you’ve listened and really 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 versus you just expressing an opinion or your own frustration. What will help your child get through this dismal ordeal?
There’s no one-size-fits-all 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. And there may be some who need outside help from doctors, coaches, or counselors.
Whatever words you choose, remember that your objective is to help your child learn to pull herself out of the dumps. Because, ultimately she’s the only one who can do it anyway. You can try to cheer her up and it may work for a short time, but your coaching and love will help her figure out longer term solutions and give her tools to fight dumpy days in the future.
Close the Conversation with Love.
As you close the conversation, make sure one thing is very clear to your child: 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 child leaves the exchange, let those words be the last ones he hears, so that he goes out with your love ringing in his ears.
Love Through the Discouragement
Those three things–listening, careful words, and love–are all that your child needs to help her climb out of the dumps. Be patient with the process. Some discouraging seasons last longer than others. Just keep being her biggest fan and that will give her strength to exit the dumps.
I think the hard seasons that drag on for our kids are harder on the parents than they are on the kids. We hate watching our kids struggle and want to do whatever we can to help. But sometimes the best way to help them is just to listen and love them through it.
Choose Habits that Will Positively Shape Your Child’s Destiny.