Family life has changed dramatically as a result of coronavirus containment measures.
Weeknights and weekends spent taking active kids to and from extra-curricular activities and sport are on hold indefinitely. For active kids, used to having, for example, gymnastics practice several times a week, this only adds to the stress and confusion they are feeling.
While most youth athletes can be kept relatively active at home, even within the restrictions, their mental well-being is something that is not as easy to address.
This is going to be a difficult and disruptive time for all kids. For those children who actively participate in sports, the loss may be even greater and could contribute to higher anxiety and depression.
The way many youth athletes cope with life is through their sport. If sport is okay, and they are performing well, then life more easily works itself out. It is when they have severe on-the-field or off-the-field issues that cause their stress levels and anxiety to spike. The lockdown certainly counts as such an issue.
Youth athletes will probably experience sadness, mood swings, or lack of initiative – and that’s normal. The key is to recognize there is nothing wrong with them and allow them some time and space every day to grieve.
Athletes are creatures of habit and crave structure and discipline. So, encourage and help your athlete practice self-care. Keep consistent sleeping schedules. Continue exercising. Eat well and stay hydrated. Maintaining a structure to stay healthy will help avoid them going on huge binges of screen time or eating unhealthy food.
Athletes should also stay connected with others virtually. If they are able to focus on helping someone else out, someone less fortunate, or even connecting with a friend, then they will gain some welcome distractions from their situation they need.
More Ways Parents Can Help Their Youth Athlete
Here are some more ways you can help your child cope with both the general lockdown situation and the loss of their sporting activities:
- Set up routines (schoolwork in the morning, “recess” in the backyard) to help normalize the situation as much as possible.
- If it allows, play with your child in the sport of their choice in the backyard or driveway, or practice certain skills and drills within the home if possible.
- Encourage them to talk, If they are feeling overwhelmed, anxious, fearful or depressed, let them know it’s okay to admit that and to talk about it. Be honest with them and don’t hesitate to ask for help for them if you need it. While physical hours for medical professionals are limited, telehealth is widely available and help is there.