7 Signs Your Kids Are Ready For Sports

You may think your kids are ready for organized sports, especially when so many of their peers are signing up. But many young kids don’t develop the physical, emotional, or mental skills it takes to compete until second or third grade.

Kids who start too soon may end up feeling frustrated or humiliated, or suffering physical injuries. Most experts agree that 6 is the youngest age to start playing organized sports, and many recommend waiting until your kids are 8. But kids develop at different times, so readiness depends more on their size, skill and maturity than on age.

To make sure you’re not jumping the gun, look for the following signs before considering sports for your kids. They will be ready for sports when they:

1. Show an interest in sports. There’s no reason to push your kids into team sports if they have no desire to play. In fact, forcing them can make them resent all organized sports. So if your kids aren’t ready yet, let them run around outside with their friends; it will give them the exercise they need until they find sports they’d like to try.

2. Are strong and skilled. If your kids are smaller and weaker than their peers, or if they can’t throw, bat or catch very well, they’ll be at a huge disadvantage. They’ll also be more likely to get injured. Before you send them onto the field to compete with kids who are naturally more able, spend another year practicing with them in the backyard so they can build their physical strength and skill.

3. Can understand and follow directions. Processing and acting on information from multiple sources -- coaches, parents, teammates and bossy siblings -- is a real challenge for many young kids. Most won’t have that ability until they are 6 or 7, at the earliest.

4. Focus on an activity for two hours. When you see young kids picking weeds or staring up at the clouds during practice, you know they don’t have the attention span to stick with an entire game. The ability to sustain focus comes with age, not experience, so it’s better to wait until your kids mature.

5. Get the concept of teamwork and taking turns. Playing organized sports means sharing the spotlight and giving everyone their turn at bat. Hogging the ball -- and everyone’s time and attention -- won’t make your kids very popular.

6. Get along with other kids. If your kids have trouble navigating social situations or working in a group at school, they’ll have an especially tough time with the dynamics and competitive nature of a team. Give them more time to build up those skills off the field.

7. Can handle losing without losing it. Winning is easy; losing can be devastating. If your kids tend to cry or get angry when they lose at sports or board games at home, they are probably not ready for a graceful defeat in public.

Organized sports are a great learning experience and an excellent way for kids to stay fit -- but they’re also supposed to be fun. Your kids will enjoy themselves more when they’re ready for it. Please visit the Presidential Fitness website for more information

Help Your Kids Manage Stress

If you think your kids can’t pick up on your stress, think again. The 2010 Stress in America survey by the American Psychological Association shows that nine out of 10 children ages 8 to 17 can tell when their parents are upset. Yet more than two-thirds of parents think their stress has little or no impact on their kids. That disconnect means more kids are living with stress -- without learning how to manage it.

“Children say they know when their parents are stressed because they yell more, argue with other people in the household, and complain,” says Dr. Mary Alvord, a family psychologist who contributed to the survey. While you may not be able to remove the cause of stress, you can reduce its negative effects on your kids by taking these 5 simple steps:

1. Be open and honest.
Tell your kids what’s happening and why you are anxious -- whether it’s money problems, job insecurity, or illness in the family. “Often kids overhear or pick up on things. If it isn’t discussed, it’s left to their imaginations,” says Alvord. Just make sure you discuss it at a level they can understand.

2. Present a plan of action.
You don’t need to come up with a solution, only a next step. Tell your kids that you’re looking for a better job, or that you’ll work together as a family to cut down on expenses. If Grandma is too sick for them to visit, tell them you’ll bring their get-better letters and drawings when you go to the hospital.

3. Identify your most stressful time.
If you get particularly tense in the morning while you’re trying to get everyone out of the house, or in the evening, when you’re trying to get dinner ready after a long day, take steps to make those times less anxiety-producing. Cook and freeze meals in advance, have your spouse handle the morning rush, or get more things ready the night before. It’s easier to manage stress when you know when you’re must vulnerable to it.

4. Welcome other people.
No matter what’s going on in your life, it’s always easier to handle setbacks with the support of others. The same goes for kids too. So bring people into your lives instead of shutting them out when times are tough. Socializing and talking to others helps diffuse anxious feelings. It’s important for kids to know that they aren’t alone.

5. Plan for fun too.
If you want to reduce your family stress, shift the focus from problems to pleasure. Start a regular movie night, go out for ice cream on a school night, or plan a short road trip. By taking action, you show your kids that there are positive steps and choices they can make that will replace feelings of stress with feelings of happiness.

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