The COVID-19 outbreak has prompted many schools to close and suspend youth sports, leaving student athletes and families disappointed and disoriented.
Nearly overnight, many families saw their jam-packed schedules open up, as practices and sporting events were canceled. As you adjust to a new routine, be careful not to overlook how your young athlete may be feeling as they process these new and sudden changes. They are grappling with the loss of activities they were looking forward to, and in many cases, their entire sporting season.
You may notice heightened feelings of frustration, depression and anxiety in your student athlete. Your child may have mood swings or even lack of initiative. It’s important to remember and remind them that these feelings and behaviors are valid expressions of their grief.
Here are a few other ways you can help them get through this tough time.
Have reassuring conversations
Talk with your student athlete about how they are feeling, and respect if they need some time to take it all in. Check in on them as time passes to see how they are doing, or if you notice changes in their behavior.
Maintain a consistent schedule
Athletes thrive on routine and discipline, so try to keep their schedule as normal as possible. Maybe you set aside the morning for schoolwork and call lunchtime recess. You could also suggest that your student athlete pursue safe, alternative forms of activity each day during the time they would have practice. Join them if you can! Maybe you can start running together in the afternoons.
Even if they are not competing, your student athlete should continue to eat a balanced diet, stay hydrated and exercise. This will keep them healthy and in shape for next year’s season.
Promote creativity in how they choose to stay active
Your student athlete may be missing the camaraderie of a team. Have them think of ways they can involve your whole family in their daily activities. Maybe they can organize a practice drill or mock scrimmage in their sport of choice.
Help them stay connected
Share with your student athlete ways that they can stay in touch with their teammates, like setting up a regular time for the team to get together virtually over Google Hangouts or FaceTime. They can use this time to exchange new workout tips and boost their motivation.
What you will likely find is your student athlete is resilient. They know the importance of overcoming injuries and setbacks in their sports, so in some ways, it’s like they’ve been training for this. Remind them of that.
By shifting their focus from what is out of their control to controlling what they can control, your child will become stronger and develop healthy coping skills for managing change throughout their life.