We live in a pressure cooker these days and when it comes to sports and activities for our kids, it's no different. I talk to lots of parents who travel around the country with their kids for tournaments and meets. Some kids are multi-sport athletes so their season never ends. The media doesn't help much either. If a kid shows promise at the tender age of ten, he or she can be labeled the next (you fill in the blank) and all of a sudden all eyes are on this innocent kid to change the face of that particular sport. So much pressure!
We live in such a performance oriented society and as parents it can be easy to get caught up in the grind. Anytime I attend one of my kid's basketball games, I see the level of effort parents go through to film every game, keep stats, and sign-up for services designed to help their kid get discovered. You see, I'm concerned because I think that when it comes to true athletic success for our kids it's not just about the wins and stats that make an athlete great, it's the not-so-obvious things we can do for our kids to make them healthier for their sport on and offseason. Below are my top 5 ways to keep your tween and/or teen healthy for the long haul.
Tip #1: Help them manage stress. Stress is the number one reason so many folks have workplace-related illnesses. If you think about it, one day our young people will be in that same environment and they'll have even more stress on them than we did. Young people are under a great deal amount of stress and it's constant. They face stressors on a daily basis and social media is the magnifying glass. You have to be intentional about helping your kids manage stress. Help them discern how stress manifests itself. Insomnia, anxiety, and sports injuries can be an indicator of high stress levels. Teach them about deep breathing exercises along with learning how to shut down way before bedtime. Talk to them about the importance of having quiet time to get settled and recharge, without their phones. It can be tough for us to do this as parents but our kids look to us to set an example so we owe it to them to help them get a handle on stress early in their lives.
Tip #2: Teach them the importance of sleep. There was a time when Starbucks Coffee was for grown-ups and now it's not uncommon to see teenagers loading up on energy drinks to stay alert in order to knock-out their deadline. The problem with caffeine is that it's addictive and over time, can wreak havoc on sleep patterns. Too much caffeine is known to disrupt deep sleep and without a good 9-10 hours (yes, your tweens and teens are toddlers again), their cognitive function is impaired, they get sick often, and they're even moodier (imagine that?). If your kid is stressed out (see tip #1), sleep is affected so keep an eye out for how these two areas overlap.
The first step in teaching your kids about the importance of sleep is to model it yourself. Get in the habit of doing things that tell the kids that it's time to wind down. Designate a check-in spot for cellphones, turn off all televisions by 9 PM, talk with family, or get out a good book. Get your kids in the habit early of shutting things down and they will learn to value their quiet time and eventually, it will become a habit for them.
In my next post I'll discuss my remaining tips on how to keep your tweens and teens healthy for life. The great thing about these tips is that once they become a habit, your kid will have an arsenal of tools to help them in their sport and in life.