Take the time to understand a child’s struggles

“Why won’t my child talk to me?”

“My child has not been him/herself and I don’t know what’s going on, and he/she won’t tell me when I ask. I’ve tried talking but he/she is reluctant to tell me. How do I deal with this?”

If you’ve had these thoughts or something similar on your mind during the last few confusing months, you’re not alone.

Recently I had the chance to deliver a workshop to parents on how they can support their children in their athletic journey. After that workshop, I realised other parents could also be having the same questions in their minds.

It’s a subject we hardly talk about but how can we support young athletes?

As athletes and parents are forced to be mindful of the many confusing standard operating procedures (SOPs) regarding training and sports, many have been forced to stop being active or be homebound.

These confusing times, paired with being cooped up at home, can lead to a lot of frustration for the athlete and those around them.

Coaches and other athletes are traditionally individuals who have the most influence on an athlete. But another important support system and influence are parents.

I am no parent myself, and I am no parenting expert. But I do know a thing or two about being a sporting parent and supporting your child’s journey as an athlete.

Nothing prepares you for parenthood. You either usually model what your parents did or read up and find out from other parents what worked for them.

As parents, you want the best for your child. But having the best intentions is not enough. What can you do?

You might be thinking “Oh what can we do to help support the mental health of athletes? Do I have to do something special or get trained?”

The short answer is no.

One of the ways we can support athletes’ mental health is the conversations we have with them on a daily basis.

People share their struggles because they want to be listened to. They want a safe space where they can voice these thoughts. Everyone goes through hardship in their life. That’s one of the certainties in life.

Oftentimes, when people share their struggles, they aren’t looking for solutions or judgment. These things are some reasons why people don’t share as much as they would love to – especially athletes who have built up an image that they are superhumans.

Let’s all look back at the time when we wanted someone to open up to us or when someone wanted us to open up to them. What was the goal? To help fix the problem? To listen in a non-judgmental way?

There is a difference between hearing what someone is saying and listening to them. Can we really help them if we don’t take the time to really listen and understand what they’re going through?

No matter how trivial or absurd the issue may be, if your child feels a certain way, you can’t tell them it’s not valid for them to feel that way. Who are we to tell someone that what they feel is invalid? What gives us the right? Because we are older? Because you are their parents?

It is their life after all.

The issue is not that “this child is reserved” or “they just don’t talk about their problems”. The issue is, how safe does the child/person feel sharing these things with others.

If all we do is listen to someone so that we can find a solution for them, it is more likely they won’t share their struggles. And now more than ever, let’s take the time to really listen to understand rather than listening to “solve”.

Sometimes, just having a safe non-judgmental space where they feel valued to share their struggles and thoughts is more than enough.

Mind Gap and Twentytwo13 are collaborating in the #LuarBIASA campaign. This news website has made a commitment to educate the masses about mental health.

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