by Kim Hansen
As a parent, you are faced with many decisions to make on your child’s behalf every day. These can be as simple as what they eat for breakfast or as important as choosing where they go to school.
As the parent of a new skater, these decisions can be confusing and at times, a bit overwhelming. Unless you have been a skater yourself, this is a whole new world to you. You may wonder what your role is and how best to support your child in their new sport.
If your skater is young, your first duties will include simple tasks such as getting them to the rink on time
for practice sessions and classes, tying their skates and communicating with the instructors any concerns or issues your skater has. At this point, it should feel very natural to you. These duties mimic the kinds of things you have done hundreds of times with your child. It all makes sense and you navigate through it with ease.
As your skater progresses in the sport, however, your role may expand to include some new experiences such as selecting a coach, buying new skates and blades, selecting costumes and in some cases picking out program music.
Wow! Suddenly you feel like you’ve stepped into a whole new world. Unless you have a skating background, you will undoubtedly be confused and quickly gesture out that you need guidance. Naturally, you will turn to the people in the rink for help. These may include coaches, rink staff, other skaters or other parents.
At this time, you often feel like a sponge soaking up all the information you can. After all, you have a new role.
You are suddenly feeling like you must grasp it all and be an instant expert. What if you make a wrong decision, pick the wrong skates, buy the wrong dress? That would mean you have let your child down, right?
Here’s the good news: Your role as a parent never really has to change. You do not need to be the expert. That’s what coaches are for — to guide you along with their vast experience, allowing you to focus on your area of expertise — your child.
Smart parents will follow these basic guidelines when deciding how best to support their skater:
Focus on effort, not outcome. Your child may not always do something correctly, place first in a competition or pass a test. But the fact that they are out there trying and doing their best should be celebrated. They know when they have made a mistake. When a parent acknowledges that but focuses on the effort, the skater has a much easier time dealing with the disappointment and can move on mentally to future successes.
Teach your skater humility and compassion. This is done through modeling. Your child will pick up on your cues from things you say. It’s fine to be competitive and, in fact, it’s a must in a tough sport, but there is an opportunity here to demonstrate a skill that will help children be kinder people. This is not to say that you cannot celebrate a big moment and demonstrate pride in accomplishment. Reminding your child that there may be others around who did not have as much success and empathizing with their experience can go a long way in helping them form friendships that may end up lasting a lifetime.
Kim Hansen is director of ISI skating programs & national events.