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Supporting my Child's Psychological Strength and Wellbeing

In this section, we provide information and practical suggestions  regarding how to support your child in the development of each of these attributes so they become a mentally strong young athlete. We also make these suggestions in the spirit of optimising their psychological health and wellbeing throughout their journey.

Most athletes, coaches, and sport psychologists agree that psychological strength and wellbeing are crucial for progression and success within youth sport. In fact, there is increasing evidence to suggest that psychological strength is associated with higher levels of achievement in sport. Although many definitions of psychological strength exist, most refer to it as a natural or developed psychological edge that enables athletes to cope effectively with the demands that sport places on them and to remain determined, focused, confident, and in control under pressure.

Psychological strength is not fixed, rather it can be developed overtime and as a parent you play a crucial role in this process. This role requires you to work closely with your child’s coach to create an environment that will help your child to develop a strong sense of self-esteem and confidence in their sporting abilities. You can also help your child to find the correct focus of attention, cope with pressure and anxiety, and remain motivated throughout the ups and downs of their sporting journey.


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Questions about psychological strength and wellbeing

How can I enhance my child’s self-esteem?

Children’s self esteem is based on their feelings of self-worth in four key life domains (i.e., academic, physical, social, and emotional). Although sport can help in the development of self-worth (and physical self-worth in particular), it is important to ensure you provide your child with opportunities to develop their self-esteem through sport and other areas outside of the sporting domain (e.g., volunteering, social activities, and hobbies).

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How can I help my child develop confidence?

Young athletes’ levels of confidence can fluctuate over time as they often base their confidence on a small number of uncontrollable sources (e.g., demonstration of ability over others). As a parent you can help your child to develop high and stable confidence by increasing the range of controllable sources from which they can draw confidence (e.g., perceptions of high quality preparation or recognition of personal improvements).

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How can I help my child manage stress and anxiety?

Sport can often trigger feelings of anxiety (e.g., nervousness, worry) when children are placed in a situation they find demanding or stressful (i.e., first competition, important match, or taking a penalty kick). You can help your child address these feelings by introducing them to basic strategies to manage their anxiety (e.g., deep breathing) or by helping them to accept that anxiety is normal and potentially helpful to  performance.

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How can I help my child stay motivated?

In order to feel motivated children need to experience feelings of autonomy (i.e., that they have a choice), competence (i.e., that they are good at their sport) and relatedness (i.e., they have close relationships with coaches and other players). As a parent, you can enhance your child’s long-term motivation by involving them in decision making and by emphasising that their success in sport is not about winning but about how they compete and how hard they try to make personal progress and improvements.

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How can I help my child focus?

In order to concentrate on their sport, your child will need to be able to mentally shift from irrelevant thoughts (i.e., schoolwork) and distractions to the specific actions that are relevant for their performance. During the lead up to competition, you can help your child to achieve this by directing their attention to specific and relevant actions (e.g., what they have been working on in training) and also ensuring they warm up thoroughly. You can also encourage them to develop basic routines and/or trigger words (e.g., ‘watch the ball’) to help them (re) focus during competitions.

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What are the best things I can do to develop my child's psychological strength and wellbeing?

We think there are 7 main things you can do to help develop your child's psychological strength. 

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