As a parent, you’ve likely already been in this position, and if you haven’t, be prepared, because it’s bound to happen.
Sooner or later your child will feel the disappointment of not making a team. Whether it be a sports team, an academic club or theater group, your child may fall short of reaching that goal and it will probably be a difficult time. As a parent, what do you say and do to help your child through this phase?
"It’s going to happen to every single child on the planet at some time,” says Sarah R. Moore, a conscious parenting expert and author of Peaceful, Discipline: Story Teaching, Brain Science & Better Behavior.
How you, as a parent, handle the situation can determine how your child deals with the disappointment. Moore tells Yahoo Life that parents should avoid the urge to share personal stories of how you didn’t make the soccer team in high school or how you missed out on the lead in the school play, at least at first Don’t make this about you. Instead, put on your listening ears and steer clear of making assumptions about how your child is feeling.
“If you go straight into a sympathy speech you may end up shaming your child and making them think they want it when they are actually OK with the decision,” Moore says. “You might be surprised to learn your child is relieved and needed a night off during the week.”
Approach the situation from the science of child development, Moore suggests. That means allowing your child to feel these big feelings, whether that be crying, spending time alone or talking. Once the emotions run their course, that’s when you get into the problem solving and building resilience.
“Talk to them, get curious with them. Ask them why they think they didn’t make the team,” Moore says. “Having these discussions helps kids learn about themselves. It also helps them emotionally separate themselves from the decision and look more objectively at the decision.”
It can be even harder when your child doesn’t make the team but his friends do. Jealousy, anger and disappointment are all appropriate reactions. Moore says you just have to give your child space to experience all of them.
Encourage your child to congratulate his friends, but if he isn’t ready to, that’s OK. Well wishes will come across as more authentic if your child initiates them.
“If the child doesn’t come to you, then after a while you can start a nonjudgmental, open conversation with them,” Moore says. “Remind them about the friendship and ask them if they want to invite their friend over.”
Patrick Cohn, owner of Peak Performance Sports in Orlando, Fla., has been working with athletes of all ages as a mental performance coach for more than 30 years. He says these tough moments can and should be used as a life lesson.
“You’re not always going to make that group or score that interview or whatever it may be, but this is a good time to reevaluate,” Cohn tells Yahoo Life. “Don’t look at it as a failure, but instead, how can your child grow from this.”
It’s important to remember, especially with younger athletes, that children mature at different rates. A young child may not quite be at the same physical or mental level as children also competing for the same spot. But that doesn’t mean your child won’t eventually get there. Use this opportunity to seek out other avenues to practice the sport. It could be joining a club team, getting private instruction or just practicing after school with Mom and Dad or friends. Cohn says another good idea is to ask the coach for an evaluation so your child knows exactly what skills he needs to work on in hopes of making the team next time.
When a pep talk is in order, remind your child that even the best of the best don’t always make the team. When Michael Jordan was a high school sophomore, he got cut from his school’s varsity basketball team. It’s fair to say that didn’t discourage Jordan, who went on to be arguably the best basketball player ever.
“Don’t give up and say, ‘I’m not playing anymore,’” Cohn says. “Use it as a learning opportunity to grow and get better.”
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