My 7-year-old wants to join a competitive gymnastics team, but I worry about the pressure she would be under. I fear it might turn something she loves into “work.” How can we balance this against school, family, etc.?
Helping kids achieve balance among school, family and extracurricular activities is one of the most important challenges parents face. You are wise to be establishing family priorities now. Competitive activities can be enriching or overwhelming, depending on the coaches’ style, expectations and how well these match your child’s temperament and ability. Observe the class regularly, if possible, and stay attuned to your daughter's feelings about it. Is she more inspired or stressed? Open communication and flexible parent expectations are essential. My children varied in their respective enjoyment of competitive sports. They would tell me when a level of competition became too burdensome. I respected their feelings while also insisting that they honor their team commitments until the end of the season. Competition is an important learning experience but not as important as enjoyment of the activity.
Dr. Patti Zomber is a child psychologist based in Marina del Rey, Calif. She has written numerous articles about parenting, and she is a contributing editor on NestleFamily.com as well as the editor of the Los Angeles Psychologist journal.