Athletic Recruiting

Mental Health Advice for Sports Parents During COVID-19

NCSA President Lisa Strasman, a former captain of Yale women’s ice hockey team and a mother of two student-athletes, recently hosted a special episode of NCSA Live, featuring licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Rebecca Kennedy. They discussed how the coronavirus pandemic impacts families with aspiring student-athletes and shared tips and coping strategies that parents can use to help their athletes right now.

Below is a recap written by Lisa, in which she shares some of her main takeaways from her discussion with Dr. Kennedy:

With season cancellations and sports suspended indefinitely, high school student-athletes are stuck at home and facing unexpected challenges to their athletic careers and life in general. It’s an uncertain time filled with more questions than answers, which make it a complicated time to be a parent. I recently chatted with clinical psychologist, Becky Kennedy, who has a wealth of insights and coping mechanisms for parents of student-athletes. Make sure to check out the video and the information below to get some helpful and important advice.

Recap Notes

03:15 – This is a really hard time

06:51 – Allow the tough experience

09:11 – How to help when your kids are feeling sad

15:50 – How hard to push

20:37 – Motivation during crisis

26:36 – Tips for parents to help themselves

37:25 – How to help when your kids are feeling angry

This is a really hard time

We are living through unprecedented challenges during this pandemic, and it is a really hard time to be a parent. It’s also a really hard time to be a teenager. This is a time when teens are supposed to be out exploring the world, and that has been taken away during this quarantine, which builds stress. There are no magic answers to simplify this time period. We should aim to shift from feeling like it is impossible, to feeling like it is pretty hard. You may need to lower your expectations and be easier on ourselves.

Allow the tough experience

When we go through something tough, it is helpful to have someone in our life who truly allows us to have that experience and who wants to understand. Kids are having big feelings right now – disappointment, loss, anger. Things have been taken away from them. A parent’s biggest job is to be a partner for their kids as they experience these emotions. Try to expand on their feelings and not contract them. Be there to listen.

How to help when your kids are feeling sad

Sometimes as parents we think our job is to make kids quickly go from sad to happy. First, we need to learn to sit with our own sadness so we can empower our kids to sit with theirs. Imagine you are in a park and there are lots of benches and each bench represents a different feeling. If your kid wants to sit on the sadness bench, that is okay. The biggest thing you can do as a parent is to sit with them on that bench, and not try to move them to the happiness bench. Acknowledge how they are feeling, let them know it makes sense and talk about it. This will help build up connection capital.

How hard to push

Some kids may not want to participate in their sport online through Zoom trainings or other forms of at-home workouts. They may appear to have lost their passion. As a good starting point, pause and recognize what is happening and ask yourself what you are truly feeling about the situation. Then, try to learn what is causing their resistance.

Motivation during this crisis

Most people are not feeling incredibly passionate right now. We are in a major world crisis where our safety is being questioned for the first time in many of our lives, and the entire world has changed. Our kids feel this and are also in survival mode. We may be worried that how we are now is how we will be when life resumes to normal. Shift that viewpoint and acknowledge that things are different, and that is okay, and our expectations should adapt. When the world changes, it is very likely that our kids will change again too, and their normal interests and passions will resume.

Tips for parents to help themselves

Give yourself compassion. We tend to be extremely hard on ourselves as parents, and how we talk to ourselves reflects how we talk to our kids. Start and end every day with self-compassion and acknowledge that this is a hard time and you are doing a good job. Many people have self-blame and guilt right now, but we should remind ourselves that this is really hard, and if it feels really hard, it means you are doing it right. It is critical to find some type of self-care practice, even if it is something small like taking an extra long shower or exercising.

How to help when your kids are feeling angry

Anger and talking back is always the iceberg. There is always something else underneath, such as loss, fear, or hurt. If we only respond to the anger on the surface it can push our kids away. It is important to set firm boundaries but also to show compassion. Recognize that you care and that you want to connect about their feelings.

Additional Information

There’s a lot of information to absorb here, and if you’re looking for more, you can find it on our coronavirus resources page and the NCSA blog. You can also follow Doctor Becky on Instagram  @drbeckyathome.

About the author
Jasmin Thames