Allowing your child to play football at any level is a difficult decision for any parent due to the concern for broken bones, concussions, and the potential for long-term negative consequences. No one would have ever expected that we as parents would also have to worry about a pandemic impacting their physical and mental health. Enough time has been spent over the past four months by “experts” educating all of us about the physical precautions that we need to take in order to keep our kids safe from the virus. However, not enough time has been spent talking about dealing with their mental health.
As a therapist and mother of two boys who have played football for many years (local leagues, middle school, high school, and now college), I can tell you that in general the state of their mental health is just as important as their physical preparedness for the game. One of the main reasons my husband and I have continued to encourage them to play football are the life lessons that they can learn from the game. Dealing with adversity of the pandemic and navigating the unknown regarding their upcoming season is just another one of the lessons.
As a parent we have a crucial role in these lessons learned, that of support and encouragement.
We have always told our children that there are two things that we cannot give them in life: attitude and effort. We can buy them the best helmet and cleats, pay for the best coaching and personal trainers, drive them all over the state to show case their skills, but we cannot make them have a positive attitude or make them give 100% effort. I believe through our support, encouragement, and role modeling that they will desire to have both of these things. So talk to your children. Be open with them about the uncertainty of things and validate their concerns and frustrations. Help them to discern between the things that are in their control verses what is not. The pandemic is what it is, the decisions of the government about school and sports is what it is, but they can control their attitude about it and the effort they put in to be prepared mentally and physically if they are allowed to participate in the football season. Help them recognize that the season might be reduced, forced to stay local, or cancelled all together. Continue to encourage them to workout, run routes, hydrate, and stay in contact with their teammates. Routine, structure, contact with our support systems, and a positive attitude are highly important for all of us during the pandemic regardless of what sport we play or job we have.