Thursday, 23 May 2024

How Parents can Help Athletes Grow from Stress

Stress is often associated with negative experiences and emotions. However, shielding children from all stress can actually hinder their growth and development. Board-certified family physician and youth development specialist, Dr. Deborah Gilboa, emphasizes the importance of allowing children to experience stress and teaching them how to effectively manage it. In this article, we explore Dr. Gilboa’s insights on how parents and coaches can help young athletes process and handle stress. By understanding our response to a child’s stress, considering the source of the stress, leading with empathy, helping them understand their feelings, and using low-consequence opportunities for teaching, we can equip young athletes with valuable life skills. Additionally, promoting a healthy lifestyle can greatly contribute to their ability to manage stress effectively.

Understand your Response to a Child’s Stress

As parents, it is natural to want to protect our children from every potential harm. However, this approach can hinder their growth and independence. Dr. Gilboa explains that while it is important to keep our children safe, we should also allow them to experience stress and learn how to navigate challenging situations on their own. By doing so, we are preparing them for adulthood and equipping them with essential life skills.

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Consider the Source of the Stress

Parents often enroll their children in sports not just to win championships, but to teach them important life lessons. Adversity and stress are valuable experiences that can teach children about teamwork, perseverance, and the importance of showing up even when things get tough. As parents, we should embrace these opportunities for growth and not shield our children from the stress that comes with them.

Lead with Empathy

Acknowledging a child’s stress and validating their feelings can go a long way in helping them cope with it. While certain stressors may seem trivial to adults, they can feel overwhelming to children. It is essential to respect and understand their emotions without trying to minimize or dismiss them. By providing a safe space for them to express their feelings, we can support them in learning how to manage stress effectively.

Help Them Understand Their Feelings

Children may struggle to articulate their emotions, even when they are experiencing stress. As adults, we can assist them in navigating their complicated feelings by creating an open and non-judgmental environment. This includes encouraging them to share any discomfort or concerns they may have, and reassuring them that their emotions are valid and important.

Use Low-Consequence Opportunities for Teaching

Minor conflicts or challenges within the sporting environment can be valuable teaching moments for young athletes. Instead of immediately intervening and attempting to solve the problem for them, parents can use these situations to teach stress management skills. This may involve discussing effective communication strategies, practicing deep breathing techniques, or encouraging direct communication with coaches or teammates.

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Stress Can Get Out of Hand

While stress is a natural part of life, excessive or chronic stress can have negative consequences. It is crucial to strike a balance and ensure that our children are not overwhelmed by stress without the necessary support and coping mechanisms. As parents, we should be attentive to the signs of excessive stress and provide the appropriate guidance and resources to help our children manage it in a healthy way.

Promote a Healthy Lifestyle

A healthy lifestyle plays a significant role in managing stress effectively. Factors such as sleep, nutrition, and exercise can greatly influence how we respond to stress. As parents, we can support our young athletes by ensuring they prioritize sleep, maintain a balanced diet, stay hydrated, and engage in regular physical activity. These habits contribute to overall well-being and equip children with the resilience needed to navigate stressful situations.


While it is natural for parents to want to shield their children from stress, teaching them how to manage stress is a crucial part of their development. By understanding our response to a child’s stress, considering the source, leading with empathy, helping them understand their feelings, using low-consequence teaching opportunities, and promoting a healthy lifestyle, we can equip young athletes with the skills they need to navigate stress and thrive in both sports and life.

About Alpinetgheep is a leading resource for parents and coaches seeking expert advice on youth development, stress management, and healthy performance. Our mission is to provide valuable insights and practical strategies to help young athletes grow and succeed both on and off the field. Visit our website for more information and resources to support your child’s athletic journey.

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