Dr. Terri Orbuch was a competitive athlete all through high school and is now raising two teen athletes of her own.
"Sport teach lessons and skills to children they can't easily get elsewhere," says Dr. Orbuch. "Parents need to help their kids have a positive and fun experience with sports."
Organized youth sports provide a fun and easy way for kids to stay physically active. Time after time, studies have shown that such physical activity prevents obesity, helps behavior problems, improves grades and postpones teen sexual activity.
If your child announces that she's quitting the team, find out why. Is she getting harassed by an overzealous coach or competitive teammates? Is she feeling pressure to perform -- possibly even from you? Ask questions, says Dr. Orbuch:
Attend some practices to see if you can observe a problem firsthand. Or volunteer to help the team by working the snack bar, keeping score or managing equipment. Coaches and teammates appreciate involved parents, and it's great for your child's morale.
Be aware of your words and behavior toward the coaches, officials and teammates, and don't be overly concerned with winning. Keep a positive attitude about your child's participation -- even if he loses or routinely sits on the bench. Don't be that parent who yells at the coach or refs!
Keep an open mind about what you consider a sport, and find a physical activity that clicks with your child. Noncompetitive kids might like biking or skateboarding for him? A theatrical child may enjoy dance classes. From marching band to archery, there are so many "sports" for your child to try.
All children need support, and just by taking an interest, you can encourage your child to stay on course. Your involvement is the key to their success. Attend their games, practice with them at home, help them pick out the right equipment and make sure they get to practices.
Keeping your child connected to physical activities they love is a gift that keeps on giving. Kids who grow being physically active and having positive associations with sports during youth remain physically active as adults.
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