As the official partner of the Football Federation of Australia’s (FFA) ALDI MiniRoos program, we want to encourage kids to be healthy and active. While exercise and nutritious food is a part of this, there is another key element to the health of children which can often be unnoticed; their mental wellbeing and happiness.
In fact, one of the biggest contributing factors to children’s motivation, satisfaction and long-term participation rates in sport is the involvement of their parents.
That’s why ALDI has partnered with Dr. Sam Elliott, an expert in youth sport and sports parenting. With an experience of nearly a decade, he has used his knowledge and research findings in this space in partnership with leading sports organisations, parents, coaches and children across the nation.
As parents, nothing makes us prouder than seeing our child having a good time playing the sport they love. For parents that have spent years sacrificing their weekends to cheer on their children, we understand the happiness you share with them when they are presented player of the match or score a winning goal. However as is the nature of the sport, our children aren’t always going to come home happy after every game.
Research has shown that what parents say before, during and after a game can create either a positive or a negative impact for their child. We understand that some parents are new to children’s sport and may be unsure of how to explain or react to the emotional experience their kid goes through while playing. That’s why we want to help parents make their children smile throughout the game, no matter what ups and downs the match may bring.
“By being involved in your child’s football this season you not only stand to benefit socially and psychologically, you’re also encouraging them to stay active and healthy,” Dr Sam Elliott says. “Ultimately, we want children to enjoy football because enjoyment is strongly associated with motivation and continued participation.”
Here are 5 Top Tips from Dr Sam Elliot for being a supportive parent both on and off the field:
- Give positive encouragement and feedback
Supportive encouragement and feedback are so important, regardless of how skilled your child is at the game. However, it is also important to understand what kind of support your child is looking for.
“The key is to understand how to give encouragement, feedback and support to your child,” Dr Sam Elliott explains. “For some children, this simply means saying, ‘I love to watch you play’, while others will want you to provide specific feedback.”
- Listen to your child’s emotional needs
Understanding what is important to your child and what brings them satisfaction in the game will make sure it’s rewarding for years to come.
“Set goals with your child and ask them what makes them happy when they play.”
“Your child may be happy just running around with their friends or maybe scoring a goal is their aim. By tuning into your child’s emotional needs you can both enjoy your football experience.”
- Set a positive and good example
One way to create an enjoyable experience is to demonstrate a healthy attitude towards the game. Find ways to support your organisation by volunteering for coaching roles, becoming a committee member or managing the team.
“Modelling healthy and positive attitudes demonstrates your support and interest in your child and it reinforces your belief in football as a fun, enjoyable and worthwhile pursuit now and across their lifespan.”
“So get involved where you can and not only will you benefit, but your child will also have a great experience playing football.”
- Take out the stress of watching the sport
There can be a range of potential stressors for parents at a match. This includes everything from frustrations with an outcome, inconsistency from coaches or referees and injuries to their children.
“To ensure these stressors do not lead to inappropriate parental behaviours, recognise what you find challenging and develop a strategy to manage your emotions.”
“Developing coping mechanisms can help you from letting your emotions take over.”
One strategy that Dr Sam Elliott suggests is to take time out for a week and let another person attend the game, such as your partner, a family friend or their grandparents. This will decrease the frequency of stresses you encounter and allow you to share the responsibility with others.
“Another effective strategy is to compare an immediate source of stress with previous experiences.”
“If you are frustrated with the referee’s decision, take a minute to compare this to previous games. When a referee has made the wrong decision before did it seriously affect your child’s enjoyment? Normalising the source of stress like this is a very effective strategy for reducing the intensity of stressors as they emerge.”
- Develop a parents’ and coaches’ support network
If you’re new to attending children’s games, think about what you can learn from others in your club.
“Approach other parents or coaches and sports providers for advice, guidance and informational support so that you feel comfortable about your involvement in your child’s football.”
“If you can identify what makes football so stressful for you and develop strategies and approach to cope, you will enjoy a more positive experience at your child’s weekly game and so will the children.”
To learn more about the ALDI MiniRoos football program, visit www.miniroos.com.au
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