Monday, 27 May 2024

What To Do When Your Child Wants to Take a Break

When your young athlete expresses the need for a break from their sport, it’s important as a parent to provide support and guidance during this challenging time. Encouragingly, taking breaks from a specific sport can often lead to athletes returning stronger and happier than before, according to Steve Smith, PhD, a professor of clinical psychology at UC Santa Barbara, who specializes in working with parents and young athletes.

Don’t panic!

It’s natural to feel concerned when your child expresses the desire to take a break or explore different activities. Smith emphasizes the significance of understanding that breaks are beneficial for young athletes. It’s essential for parents to avoid becoming overly invested in one particular season’s results. Research shows that kids benefit from breaks, and pushing too hard can have undesirable outcomes.

It’s important to remember that breaks are not solely due to physical injuries; young athletes may also require mental and emotional respite. Even at a young age, individuals can experience burnout when pushed beyond their limits, both physically and emotionally.

Be aware of your response

As a parent, it may be challenging to accept that your child needs a break. Your immediate reaction might go unnoticed on a conscious level, but your young athlete may sense your disappointment. It’s crucial to be mindful of your response and provide support without judgment.

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Find an expert

Initiating the conversation about taking a break from sports can be difficult. Seeking guidance from an expert, such as a sports medicine doctor, sports psychologist, or physical therapist, can alleviate this challenge. These professionals can assess your young athlete’s situation and provide an explanation for the need for time off. Having a third party involved can help the young athlete understand that a temporary break can lead to long-term benefits and a stronger future in the sport. Coaches also play a role by reassuring the athlete that they still have a place on the team.

Make an active recovery plan

The idea of a break can be daunting for many athletes and parents because it often lacks a clear timeline or plan. This is especially true for young athletes who are instructed to take time off without receiving a strategic recovery plan involving low-impact exercises, physical therapy, or mental wellness activities.

Coaches can collaborate with doctors, physical therapists, or sports psychologists to create a recovery plan tailored to the situation. However, it’s important to respect your child’s preferences. If they appear uninterested in an immediate return to the sport, forcing them can have counterproductive results.

Help your athlete keep in touch

Staying connected with coaches and teammates can provide significant benefits for young athletes. Teammates often become close friends, and when a break occurs, it might feel like they are moving on without the athlete. Encouraging communication with coaches helps maintain motivation and facilitates a smooth return to the sport.

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Find similar athletes

There are various blogs and online resources created by athletes who have experienced similar hurdles. Smith recommends searching for these resources to show your young athlete that they are not alone in needing a break. Whether it’s due to injury, burnout, or the desire to pursue another sport or hobby, there are success stories that can serve as inspiration.

Allow your child to take a few days to relax and recover, but after the initial week, encourage them to find new activities that enhance their life. This could involve joining a new club at school or engaging in family activities like hiking or taking a class together.

Parents may also find themselves at a loss when they no longer need to shuttle their child to and from practice and competitions. This is an opportunity for parents to take some time for themselves, whether it’s restarting their own exercise routine or spending more quality time at home.

Remember, you deserve a break too!


Q: How can I support my child when they want to take a break from their sport?
A: As a parent, it’s important to provide support and guidance during this time. Understand that breaks can have positive effects on young athletes, both physically and mentally. Seek expert advice if needed and help your child maintain connections with coaches and teammates.

Q: Should I force my child to return to the sport after a break?
A: It’s crucial to respect your child’s preferences. If they seem uninterested in an immediate return, forcing them can have counterproductive results. Listen to their needs and encourage other activities that enhance their overall well-being.

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When your child expresses the desire to take a break from their sport, it’s essential to support them and provide guidance. Research shows that breaks can have positive outcomes, leading to stronger and happier athletes. Avoid panicking and be mindful of your response. Seek guidance from experts and establish an active recovery plan. Encourage your child to stay connected with coaches and teammates, and share success stories of similar athletes. Finally, help them explore new activities and remember that breaks can be enriching for both athletes and parents.