6 Ways to Cope With Sports Parent Burnout
Yes, sports parent burnout is a first-world problem. It's a privilege to be able to accommodate a child's desire to be really involved in an activity. But knowing that doesn't make your stress level much lower as a parent, day to day. So let's acknowledge that this is a lucky-to-have kind of a problem, but a problem nonetheless.
Where Does Sports Parent Burnout Come From?
Sports parents can often feel torn in many directions, like all parents. You have responsibilities to your family, your job, and your home. And so do your spouse and your kids. And sometimes they are in conflict, like when two kids both have an important game on the same day. That is a recipe for stress. So is feeling like everything is on your shoulders, from the dinner menu to the team's big fundraising event to the homework-checking and the transportation. (Oh, the driving!)
There are only 24 hours in a day, and we could easily fill them with the tasks related to just one of our roles (parent, child, employee, housekeeper, sports team volunteer). But that's not sustainable, of course.
If you're feeling exhausted or unmotivated, or as if you're not very good at any of your sports parent jobs, you could be burning out.
So how do you cope with that way-too-busy feeling?
6 Ways Sports Parents Can Bust Burnout
It's not fun for anyone in the family when mom and dad are overwhelmed. So see if some of these strategies can help alleviate the pressure—at least enough to get you to the end of the season or the school year when you can take a bigger breath.
Bench yourself. Yep, sit something out. Do you always stay at your child's practices or lessons (in case he needs something or gets hurt)? If you're in need of a break, give yourself permission to skip some of these practices. Your spouse, a grandparent, or another team parent can pinch-hit for you. The same goes for games and even travel-tournament weekends. Drop the guilt and take some time off. Your child will not remember that you missed an event (in fact, if you send her with her favorite aunt or a friend's family, she will probably love it). She will remember if you're constantly grouchy and resentful because you're burned out.
If you have a big volunteer role in your child's sport, you can't leave everyone hanging by flaking out in the middle of a season. But you can delegate more of your tasks to others in the group. Ask for help; don't assume there is no one who can give it! And you can put the word out that next season, you'll need to step back a bit from your commitment.
Find a sympathetic ear. Whether it's your spouse, a friend, a relative, or even a therapist, it really helps to have someone you can talk to about how you're feeling. The point is not for them to help you brainstorm solutions (unless that would be helpful to you), but for them to just listen, without judgment, to your laments about how you're feeling. Sometimes getting it out there is all you need to feel better, even if nothing actually changes with your schedule or responsibilities.
Keep up with your conditioning. Just like your athlete needs to eat healthfully, stay in shape, and get sufficient rest, so do you. After all, you're basically running a marathon just to get through every week! So follow each other's lead. Look for ways to fit in physical activity (like taking a walk during your child's practice). Even though it hurts to give up leisure time in favor of sleep, it's worth it. You can watch TV during the off-season. And eating healthy food benefits the whole family. Cut yourself some slack if you hit the drive-thru once in a while, but know that focusing on nutritious foods will help you feel better, plus set a good example for your kids.
Reduce other stresses in your life. If your kids' sports activities are causing the most stress, and you can't do much to cut back on those (at least right now), see if there are other stressful things that you can jettison. Maybe you can get a cleaning or lawn service, even just once in a while, to take home maintenance tasks off your plate. Maybe there is a project at work that you could reorganize or scale back or defer. Maybe you could re-frame an upcoming social obligation to make it easier: Turn a dinner party or holiday meal into a potluck, for example. Maybe you could back out of, or turn down, school volunteer jobs for now. Buy yourself a little time—just enough to spend on yourself for a recharge.
Bond with your team. As an athlete, your child needs to forge a strong connection with their teammates. You, too, will likely feel better and less burned out if you have good social connections. This could mean deepening your relationship with other sports parents (which makes it much easier for you to help each other out). Or it could mean making sure you have social outlets that are separate from the sports parent world. (It's still out there!)
Look for the good. Instead of dreaming about when this will all be over, take note of what you're getting out of parenting right now. Wishing it away is a recipe for regret and resentment. You don't have to enjoy the boring stuff and unnecessary drama, but you can try to overlook it and focus on the good stuff.
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Children should be at least six years of age before they begin team sports.