Emotional red flags
Activities of any kind—even when they aren’t physical, like sports—can get kids moving, socializing, and finding their interests. But, what if you sign up your child for the soccer team, only to find out that, after three practices, he doesn’t enjoy it? John Mayer, PhD, author and clinical psychologist at Doctor on Demand, recommends children stick it out for as long as possible to teach the value of commitment, but also encourages parents to watch for warning signs of emotional distress. “If the activity is causing stress or hardship in the child, then a parent needs to reevaluate the usefulness of participation,” says Dr. Mayer. “Is this activity still fulfilling the purpose you signed them up for?” According to Dr. Mayer, parents should keep an eye on emotional red flags that could signal that an activity is doing more harm than good, such as loss of sleep, decreased appetite, signs of depression, and fear and/or temper tantrums associated with the activity. At this point, it may be best to drop the activity.
Your dream or hers?
Encouraging a child to try new things is wonderful when it’s for the right reasons. Activities can help children meet new friends, learn respect for authority figures, work as a team, and more. Parents are often the main supporters of their kids as they try a new sport, musical instrument, or art class. But, parents can also be the main source of pressure for their kids to succeed. Frank J. Sileo, PhD, psychologist and author of Sally Sore Loser: A Story about Winning and Losing, says that when adults “take the fun completely out of the activity and an emphasis is placed on winning, being first, winning a trophy, that kids may begin to feel anxious about attending an activity or practice.” If you start to feel that maybe your child becoming a gorgeous ballerina was more your dream than hers, it may be time to relieve some pressure off her shoulders. According to Dr. Sileo, pressure may push a child past her physical and emotional limits, which can have long-term emotional and physical effects.