Kids love playing sports. And parents love that their kids can get all of that excess energy out while learning the benefits of hard work and comradery.
But with the thrill of competition comes the hard reality that sometimes you lose. Some teenagers are barely affected by a loss. They are truly happy just playing the game on the field or court with their friends. Other kids, however, can be almost devastated by losing.
There are a few things you can do if your teenager seems to struggle after losing a game:
Don’t assume you know exactly what is bothering him or her. Before you provide any advice, listen to how and what they are feeling so you know how best to address the issue.
Some adolescents, especially boys, may have a hard time processing their feelings. They know they feel bad, but they can’t express exactly what it is that is bothering them or they feel weak if they talk about it. Consider asking questions like:
• What part of the game was the best and worst for you?
• Were you satisfied with your efforts? Did you give it 100%?
• What do you think you did well, and what could you think you didn’t do well?
• What was something important you learned from today’s game?
Don’t Deny Reality
There is no point in telling your teen or adolescent that it doesn’t matter (when it does to them) or that they did great (if they didn’t). They know the truth and if you’re denying it then they’ll have a hard time believing you in the future.
Instead of denying reality, be open with your kid while guiding the conversation toward future strategies for positive outcomes.
Don’t Try to Protect Them
Many parents try to shield their children from feeling negative emotions. While you may think you are protecting them, the fact is disappointment and loss is a part of life. Losing a game is actually a pretty good life lesson and many times more is gained from a loss than a win.
Disappointment and sadness feel bad, but you don’t want to teach your teenagers to avoid bad feelings. These feelings play a vital role in their emotional, intellectual, and social development. It is important for them to learn to deal with setbacks now so they don’t derail them as adults. Pop psychology is rampant with an overemphasis on empathy. Empathy important and necessary for emotional health and healthy relationships! An extreme preoccupation can lead to unhealthy behavior such as enabling. Enabling is when parents attempt to blame everyone else and make excuses and accommodations so that their children don’t have to have any responsibility to change. In other words, enabling fosters entitlement and victimhood in the child’s psyche.
Avoid the instinct to “protect” them from disappointment. Instead, guide them through their emotions and help them learn to cope.
If your child athlete has a particularly hard time dealing with loss and disappointment, I specialize in counseling for teens and would be more than happy to talk with you about your teenager’s needs! Don’t hesitate – schedule an appointment today!