Watching the Rio Olympics is inspiring, but parenting a child with talent and drive to become an elite athlete can be a difficult balancing act. Parents must carefully navigate the line between being supportive and pushing too hard.
As inspired as you?
“If you are a parent and you acknowledge that your child may be very athletic or may be destined for success, you want to make sure that your child is as inspired, as passionate, as interested in the activity as you are. Otherwise it typically won’t work,” says psychologist and author Sara Dimerman.Listen
Dimerman suggests parents speak with coaches to see whether they think the child is exceptional in some way to see if the child does indeed stand out from the rest. She suggests “making sure that you’re going in with your eyes wide open with regards to the time and the financial commitment. And then perhaps even talking to other parents and children who have already invested in the process for a while to find out whether it’s the lifestyle that you want to take on.”
More than an athlete
A common mistake that some parents make is to see children as athletes and nothing else, says Dimerman. It is important that parents emphasize other qualities in their children such as being a good friend, a good sibling, or a good help at home. This helps to build self-esteem and a sense of self-worth should the child decide to quit training.
No shame, no guilt
Parents should listen carefully to what their children say and watch for behavioural changes such as not sleeping or eating well, or withdrawing. These may indicate it is time to stop elite training.
She notes some children may have the physical ability to become an elite athlete, but not the temperament or stamina. Should they decide to quit, it is important to not shame or guilt them.
But it can be sweet
Should children continue and have success it can be highly rewarding for the families, says Dimerman. As they accept their prizes, top athletes will often thank their parents, siblings and friends for their support and sometimes say they could not have succeeded without them.