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Children and Sports

Dr. Meg Meeker

Dr. Meg Meeker

Dear Dr. Meg,

Can you write on children and sports?  My daughter is in first grade, is very tall and is very athletic.  Everyone around us is always asking if she is going to play volleyball or basketball.  So she has been asking when she gets to start.  We have been holding her out because we feel that it’s more important to have family time.  My husband and I have read 10 habits for mothers and strong fathers strong daughters, boys will be boys.  She is in student council that meets once every few months and swim lessons once a week every once in a while not year round.  I guess I just need a little pep talk that we are doing the right thing. We live in a city where people have their kids in one sports year around.  It’s hard to find those three day clinics in the summer like we did as a kid.  A friend told me about a basketball program that was only one practice a week and a game on Saturday.  So I’m starting to slip on saying, No.  My husband who has coached HS football in the past was asked to coach a high school feeder team.  He just asked for the details and it was for 8 year olds and under, 4-days a week for an hour game on Saturday.  He was just appalled.  I would just go back to coaching high school with that schedule.  “Plus” he said, “Parents that would put their kids in a program like that would be really annoying!”  I just want to do the best thing for her and have been trying to listen to what she wants versus activities I would like her to be in.  What would be a good age to slowly add a small activity? Thanks for all you do!


Dear Olivia,

Hooray for you!

You are absolutely right to keep your daughter home more and less involved in sports. Of course athletics can be good for kids but so many children are now over scheduled that they grow up emotionally deprived because they don’t get enough parent time and this is sad.We know that children develop self esteem by figuring out what their parents and other significant adults in their lives believe about them.

If they see that a parent is proud, they feel good about themselves. If they see that a parent enjoys being with them, they feel that they are valuable, etc. So, kids discern how their parents feel and then they internalize those feelings.

The catch is, that in order to figure out what their parents believe about them, children must spend enough time with their parents. Sadly, many kids don’t because parents are more convinced that kids need sports, music or a thousand other extracurricular activities than they do time with them. This is absolutely NOT true.

Think back to your own childhood. Did the things which really impacted you come from piano lessons, track, basketball, etc? Or did those things come from a conversation that you had with your father or mother? Years from now, the memories which shape who your daughter becomes are going to happen while she is with you or her father, not doing a sport.

So- keep up the great work! Your daughter will continue to need more of you than she does of sports. Sure, she should have ample opportunity to play, but never at the expense of your relationship with her.Regards,

Dr. Meg

P.S. Just because she’s tall doesn’t mean that she needs to play basketball or volleyball. Help her learn to handle others commenting on her height because she will get comments for the rest of her life. I know, I have a son-in-law who is 6’6″ and he still gets comments and hated them growing up.


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