Life is unfair…and if we don’t teach and enable our children to navigate this life lesson, we will fail them miserably.
Winter sports seasons are kicking off all over the area and this means that many student-athletes may get their heartbroken when the team lists are announced. Most high school teams are competitive and require try-outs and this means not every student will earn a spot on the team; it’s important that you help your child navigate this potential situation by being prepared.
So, what can you do to help your child overcome this sense of failure? Empathize. Your life hasn’t been perfect and you undoubtedly have suffered disappointment or perceived failure, so understand when they come home kicking and screaming; the tears of rejection or frustration; or when they push you away and just want to be alone. And then take gentle action.
- LISTEN! Your child’s feelings are legitimate and should never be swept away as childish or immature. News flash, they are still children and deserve to feel their own feelings. So listen to them as they explain their pain and disappointment. Don’t deny that they may be angry at the coach or other children that made the team; or how the team was selected. Really listen to why they believe that their rejection from the team was unfair. Too often, adults try to negate or diffuse children’s emotions, but this could lead them to never trust themselves or you as a source of comfort and help.
- Be ready to help. Not every child needs YOU to give them easy answers. Again, your child needs to have their feelings validated and feel they have control of their own reactions. Ask them if there is anything they feel they need to do to feel better. Perhaps there’s another sport or activity they want to try or perhaps a local rec league they could join to improve their skills, so when they try out next time they may have a better chance.
- Do not try to “solve” their pain. Your son or daughter needs to work through their pain with your support, but it’s vital that they learn to deal with the disappointment and how to move forward on their own. Empower them to understand that failure is not the end of something, but rather a valuable lesson and a challenge to try harder.
Failing at an activity that they love will either inspire your child to work harder and come back to try again…or to change their course and find a new interest. Nowhere is it written in stone that your child must follow the same path that their friends follow or the path that you think they should follow. I do agree that if a child asks to join a sport that they should give it a full season before deciding it’s not for them. But we as parents need to support and listen to our children when they tell us that they do not want to play soccer, basketball or do ballet. It’s possible to teach them not to give up just because something is hard, but also to validate their feelings and desires as legitimate and worthy.
If your child decides that they want to stick with the activity that they were cut from, there are positive ways to move forward.
- Look for an alternate team they can play on for the season. Were they cut from varsity and not happy with being put on JV? That’s a big opportunity to show the coach that they want to be a part of the team and are willing to improve their skills. If there is no “JV” option, perhaps there is a town team they can join to hone their skills or local skills clinics. Heck, YouTube is chock full of instructional videos and you can help work on their skills right in your backyard or local park.
- Talk to the coach. This is not an opportunity to criticize their decision on “cutting” your child. Ask the coach why your child did not make the team and what improvements are needed can help give your child a strong roadmap to follow and come back stronger, faster, better to try again.
Being a positive and supportive force when your child faces the disappointment of being cut from a team will allow them to figure out their own path forward. It’s understandable that you too may be angry and wont to create a crisis with your own overreaction. BUT that helps no one and can make the entire situation worse. Instead, take a breath and help your child move forward. Failure is not the end of the world. Failing means you tried; trying again from a different angle means you learned and that’s what life is all about.