Do You Freak Out About Your Kids’ Sports? Expert Advice to Keep Calm on the Sidelines

Last month during the summer games, Lynn and Rick Raisman became internet sensations when they were caught on camera freaking out while daughter Aly competed in the Olympics. I’m sure you remember their over-the-top antics and all that seat squirming, right? Well this fall, many parents are feeling the same way, with the stress, nervousness and anxiety of watching their children participate in competitive sports occuring week after week.

To help parents cope with that stress, Stephen Graef, PhD and sports psychologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center <> , has created this helpful acronym:  P.A.R.E.N.T.

Perspective. When we get anxious about something, we need to be able to zoom out and put it into perspective. From performance standpoint, the Olympics are a big deal, but it isn’t curing cancer. Appreciate and absorb the opportunity.

Acceptance. Acceptance of the reality that there’s a chance we will get a little nervous and experience anxiety.  Accept that whether a performance is good or bad and we should still love our kids unconditionally.

Realistic. Be realistic in the outcome of a competition. In the case of Raisman’s parents, cringing and looking away is not going to have an impact on if their daughter performs well. We need to realize that things could go either way and be positive.  The same applies for parents of any sport, like pee wee football.  In the 4th grade, a child may not be the next Emmitt Smith, but they go have a long way to go and a future ahead of them.

Embrace the moment. The Olympic games are as big as it gets. But with our kids in general, embrace the opportunity to watch them participate in a sport. Embrace that they’ve got the ability to complete. Don’t over think or overanalyze things.

Non-judgment. Whether a child performs well or not, accept it as it is. Be non-judgmental towards yourself and give your kids credit.  Don’t base your love for them on their performance.

Talk it out. Be able to discuss your anxiety. Talk to someone about how much anxiety you are experiencing.  It will help you process things and make it more manageable. Parents may not know how their children want them to react while watching in the stands.  If you have a conversation and talk it out with your kids, you can understand how they want you to respond.  Kids will tell you what they prefer and you can go with that for a while and see how it works out.