Finding Midfield When Parenting Student Athletes

  By Seth Woolcock

You’ve heard that parents live vicariously through their children. Sports is no exception.

If you haven’t yet been on the sidelines, watching your kid play, maybe you haven’t seen the parent obsessed with their child’s performance. Yelling negative comments at their kid, the coaching staff and even the referee. It’s why a lot of kids’ sports leagues have put in new rules.

But their are parents at the other end of the spectrum, also. Maybe their kid is serious about sports, but when it comes game time, they look up and no one is there.  Their teammates have both of their parents, plus two sets of grandparents, a couple of aunts and uncles, and even a few cousins. But they don’t see anyone cheering them on.

These are the kids that get a ride home from practices and games. Their  parents were “just too busy” to come pick them up.

That was me. In high school I lettered in varsity wrestling and soccer every year since I was a freshman. The amount of times I had my parents supporting me at my matches and games was far smaller than the times I didn’t have anyone there.

While nobody wants that over-involved parent, screaming in their face after every bad play, also, nobody wants to be the kid never hearing a cheer from the crowd.

So where is the happy medium? How do you help your child feel good about themselves and have a positive experience with athletics? Here are my thoughts.

Be there to support, but not to coach

First, a parent should be there to be a child’s number one fan, win or lose. But unless they are actually on the staff, they should leave the coaching to the coaches. If you’re seeing your child give 100 percent, that should be the most important thing to you.

Sure, who doesn’t want their kid to be successful in everything they do. Athletics are probably no exception.

But, when wins and losses become the only thing you focus on, it could become the only thing your child focuses on as well. Sports are something that can teach kids valuable lessons from a young age such as not being afraid to put themselves out there, losing graciously, perseverance and creating a good work ethic. But sports shouldn’t be the number one thing in their lives. Nor yours.

Being there

Everyone understands that parents today are busy. And sometimes it’s easier to ask someone else to give your kid a lift home from practice. But with that being said, even if you can’t be there every time physically, it’s important to be there for them emotionally.

Ask them how practice was and what they learned. Ask them what they’re goals are and how they think they can work to accomplish them. Asking questions and being involved with their athletics is an easy way to open up a good line of communication, which may be helpful if more serious circumstances ever come up. But it is a delicate balance of asking questions, having good conversations, and carrying it too far. And resist the urge to “coach” even off the field – at home.

Make sure they’re taken care of physically

While it’s always important to make sure your kid is healthy, i’s even more crucial that your athlete is getting the proper nutrition. For more information on properly feeding your child athlete, head over to KidsHealth.org.  I also strongly recommend family dinners.  See our post about that right here.

Aside from food, make sure if any injuries happen they are treated properly. Today, the second leading cause of emergency visits in the U.S. is sports injuries. According to Nationwide Children’s Hospital Sports Medicine, over three million youth are seen in hospital emergency rooms for sports-related injuries and another five million are seen by their primary care physician.

If you’re child does get injured, just remember R.I.C.E.: Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. For more on RICE, visit nationwidechildrens.org.

By the way, according to ESPN , the second leading cause for boys and third leading cause for girl to quit a sport is because of injury. Some injuries are preventable. Make sure you’re doing your part.

Make athletics fun for your child

It’s pretty widely known that an athlete can give their peak performance when they are having fun at a competition.  When your child begins to not enjoy going to practice or competing anymore, it may be the beginning of a burnout. If this happens, try to find the root of the problem. Is it the pressure, the coaching or just plain exhaustion? Something else?

Find the Midfield

Your child benefits a great deal from athletics. It helps them stay physically fit. It gives them a sense of belonging and team camaraderie, and maybe even a few life long friends. But you’ve got to set the tone. Avoid the extremes of not caring at all and caring too much.

And enjoy it all. These are the good times.

Stressed and Depressed: Checking In On Your Child

 By Katie Mest

Parents: Here’s my story.

Sitting alone in my bedroom, I finally allow myself to release all the tension and built-up stress from the longest day of my week. It’s days like these that make me sometimes question my ability to accomplish even the smallest of tasks.

Thursdays are rough.

I wake up for my 8 a.m. class, which sometimes is immediately followed by a meeting with our project team. Luckily, I usually have approximately an hour or so to get lunch. From 12:30 to 3:15, my back-to-back classes occupy my afternoon, and after that I go to work…until about 11 p.m.

That’s just the skeleton of my Thursday.

In any free moment, I’m trying to finish the homework that inevitably did not get finished for that day’s classes. During downtime at work, I try to get a head start on the next day’s work, which never actually happens because there’s no downtime at work. For dinner, I pick up any unhealthy but quick meal I can get that won’t break my already low bank account.

None of this factors in walking time from academic buildings to my house (10-15 minutes depending on the building), which adds up at the end of the day.

All of this results in me coming home exhausted and delusional, only to bawl my eyes out at something small like accidentally knocking my glass of water off my nightstand.

It’s difficult. It’s draining. But it’s not unusual for someone my age.

Though my high-stress situations didn’t start until college, some students start experiencing them in high school or even middle school.

I know a good amount of people who regularly have mental breakdowns from the pressures of school. Some are on anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medication. Some regularly see a therapist. Many would say that they have at some point felt overly stressed and depressed.

Some, however, deal with their problems alone, which is why it’s extremely important that you as a parent recognize if this is happening to your child.

The Facts

Anxiety disorders affect 25.1 percent of children between 13 and 18 years old, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, and can also occur with other disorders, including depression and eating disorders.

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States.

If you suspect your child is getting overwhelmed with school, reach out. Acknowledgment on your part can go a long way.

BUT, you must be patient. Each case is different, so what you may have heard worked for someone else might not work for your child.

What Can You Do?
  1. Validate their emotions. It’s extremely discouraging to breakdown over a series of events when our peers are thriving doing the exact same things. Recognize and remind your children that they are doing their best.
  2. Look for symptoms. ASCD gave a great list of what to look for:
  3. Don’t stigmatize the situation. It can be a complicated topic to discuss, but the last thing you want to do is make your child feel like their emotions are something they have to hide from others. More people are going through this than you think.
  4. Encourage your child to reach out. To you. To a friend. To a teacher. Get them talking.

 

For more information about depression and anxiety, click here:

National Institute of Mental Health

To learn more about problems facing your teen, read up on the world of sports gambling:

Sports Gambling: Quickest Way to Teenage Bankruptcy

A Parent to Parent website about drugs: http://PtPDrugFree.com 

Diet Dilemmas: Do I have to have Family Dinners?

 By Lily Whorl and Erick Lauber

Growing up a child of three, it was always hard to get everyone together to eat a family dinner. Whether it was cross country practice or my sister’s dance class, it seemed we could never get together at the same time. However, the rare nights did sit down and eat a meal together are still ingrained in my head. That quality time was and always be important to me.

So, are you having family dinners?

According to the The Family Dinner Project, sitting down together helps children develop in numerous ways, including eating a more balanced and healthy diet. This group belongs strongly in this activity because of research on the physical, mental and emotional benefits of regular family meals. Research suggests the benefits include:

  • Better academic performance
  • Higher self-esteem
  • A greater sense of resilience
  • Lower risk of substance abuse
  • Lower risk of teen pregnancy
  • Lower risk of depression
  • Lower likelihood of developing eating disorders
  • Lower rates of obesity

It can be tough for some parents to get into the swing of family dinners. Fortunately, the Family Dinner Project has many helpful resources, such as recipes and conversation topics.

Maybe you noticed above we wrote that family dinners can help lower the risk of substance abuse.  A report done by CASA Columbia found that “teens who had frequent family dinners (5 to 7 per week) were more likely to report having high-quality relationships with their parents.” Researchers have also found that parental engagement is a key to keeping your child away from tobacco, alcohol and other drugs.

Brian Howard, a fellow parent blogger, has written “Many of our best parenting moments come at the dinner table. At the table, we teach our kids all sorts of things that will help them to be successful adults in society.”

As a 22-yr-old, I still remember those challenging conversations at the dinner table. I realize now they were parenting us without lecturing us. Those casual conversations were actually serious stuff.

There’s lots to talk about when it comes to raising healthy kids. Feel free to post a question. We’d love to hear from you.

 

Helpful links:

Brian Howard’s blog-  http://brianhoward.com/why-family-meals-are-important/

Family Dinner Project – https://thefamilydinnerproject.org/

Parent to Parent website about drugs: http://PtPDrugFree.com 

Sports Gambling: Quickest Way to Teenage Bankruptcy

  By Seth Woolcock and Erick Lauber

If you’re like most parents, you’re probably encouraging your kids to get into sports. I was encouraged like that. So was Dr. Lauber. You probably think you’re helping them avoid dangers, like drug addiction, obesity, teen pregnancy…

My friends and I were always playing backyard football, competing with sports video games, diving into fantasy leagues or consuming all the sports on television we could.

Never did it dawn on our parents that they might be creating a problem: an obsession with sports.

By the time we got to college we were playing fantasy sports competitively, but this included betting on the games.  We extended our competitiveness into late night poker games. It started out as fun, but gradually winning became more about the money than the pride. We eventually started betting more: our fantasy league buy-ins became $50 rather than $20. Our poker buy-ins went from $10 to $30 and then $70.

I confess once I saw my friends attempting to gamble on just about everything, I stepped back. They were so consumed for a while they were making weekly casino trips – while poor college students!  They were also making sports bets on teams for games years down the road – for hundreds of dollars.

Luckily, most of my friends eventually realized this was not a good hobby for them. But only after losing thousands of dollars.

Unfortunately, our state, Pennsylvania just officially declared sports gambling legal. I’m afraid for my friends.  Here is what you need to know to make sure your kid doesn’t fall victim to a sports gambling addiction.

What did Pennsylvania (and maybe your state) do? 

The new Pennsylvania law permits wagering “by any system or method,” including in person, on the internet and mobile. This means that while a person can go to registered casinos to place a bet on sports, they can also use their phone, tablet, computer or other device to make bets (as long as they are within the state borders.)

What can people legally bet on?

With the law change, people can legally bet on just about every sport. Wagering can be placed on popular sports in the U.S. such as football, baseball or basketball, but people can also bet on more obscure sports such as cricket, Formula 1 racing and golf.

While people can still make traditional wagers, such as betting against the spread or taking the over or under, they can also bet on just about anything with the new trend of “prop bets.” For example, they can now bet on the length of the national anthem, whether the coin toss is heads or tails, and whether there will be a rain delay or not? Yes, people can now bet on pretty much anything.

What are the legal requirements to make a wager?

Anyone over the age of 21 can legally bet on sports in Pennsylvania. The key word here is, “legally.” While it is still “illegal” to bet on sports while you are underage, it is still not difficult to do so.  Take it from a college student – it is similar to drinking underage. If you want to do it, someone will help you out.  By the way, did you know that 11% of the US’s entire alcohol output every year is drunk by 12-19 year olds? I’m guessing the same will be true for sports gambling pretty soon.

What is the deal with daily fantasy sports apps, such as Fan Dual and Draft Kings?

Fantasy sports is usually a season long game held between a league of people who pick rosters of players. The most popular sport is currently the NFL.  Friends make points off of certain players, such as their yards per game, receptions and touchdowns.

The winner generally is the person with the best players throughout the entire season. While many fantasy football league winners receive nothing but bragging rights, some win a few thousand dollars. It’s big league betting in some circles.

Daily fantasy sports, or “DFS” is similar. But instead of taking place throughout an entire season, it is condensed down into a single day or week. So, while bettor doesn’t have to commit serious time to play a DFS app, it is still very easy to commit large amounts of money.

Many of these games/apps “sell” themselves by guaranteeing prize pools, “cash games”, Head-to-Head matchups and 50/50 games.  Some now offer to match a newbie’s initial investment!  The appeal these games/apps is growing from year to year.

So, how is this harmful?

Presently, 2.6% of the U.S. population has a gambling addiction. Over 50 percent of these 10 million Americans are between the ages of 16 to 24.  They are by far the most affected age group.

Of the 10 million people who have this issue, over 50 percent of them fall between the age range of 16-24. They are by far the most affected age group, according to the North American Foundation for Gambling Addiction Help.

Sports betting isn’t always a problem, but gambling addiction occurs once gambling behavior begins to either cause distress, become a habit, leads to financial stress or disturbs everyday life and functioning.

DFS companies are spending millions to advertise to your kid. The risk is only growing larger.  Educate yourself and your kids. I’m betting teenage “bankruptcy” is only going to grow. Pun intended.

Here are some helpful links for more information:

North American Foundation for Gambling Addiction Help

How the Brain Gets Addicted to Gambling

https://kidshealth.org/en/teens/gambling.html

450,000 children aged between 11 and 15 are gambling on a weekly basis…

 

Adderall: “Poster Child” of Teenage Prescription Drug Abuse

  By Erick Lauber

If you’re like me, a parent over the age of 30, you didn’t grow up with Adderall. If you wanted to stay up late to, say, focus on schoolwork, you were stuck with that old fuddy-duddy of a drug, caffeine.  Mountain Dew was my personal favorite delivery system. Rotted out my gut, but I did pass all of my finals.

Today, Adderall is of the most popular teenage drugs ever created in a lab and it’s only been around since 1996. Research suggests it is the second most popular drug on college campuses, behind only marijuana (we’re not counting alcohol).

What you need to know is it is widely available at your kid’s high school and probably their junior high. How do I know? Because all of the national research suggests it, and my college students convinced me it is everywhere.

For those who don’t know, Adderall is the brand name of a drug that is mostly amphetamine salts. It is from the same family as methamphetamine and is a stimulant or an upper. It has been prescribed for over two decades for ADHD. It has some success in helping with this. But the best research I can find says it doesn’t do much for anyone without ADHD. I don’t take it, but I’m guessing it feels like a super-powerful caffeine pill. My students tell me it makes you feel awake and alert, and maybe just a little bit “invincible”.

What scares me is that, with just a little big of digging, I found out it is highly addictive. Hundreds of thousands of teenagers across this country have physical tolerance to Adderall and “need” it just to get by.  I also found it is considered the “poster child” of teenage prescription drug abuse in America. It’s use, both legal and illegal, has skyrocketed. The number of prescriptions for legal Adderall alone tripled from 2008 to 2012.  The New York Times wrote an article called “Generation Adderall”.

And your kids aren’t scared of it at all. Not even a little.

You see, they’ve been listening to their peers. “Parents” are old fuddy-duddies who think marijuana is bad. Clearly that’s wrong. Do a little research on the states that have legalized marijuana. Then come back and tell me it has done no harm.

Teens think old people are wrong about Adderall, too, or what some kids call “smart pills”, “beans”, “dexies” or “zing”. It can’t be bad for you, they say. “Several of my friends in school are even prescribed it.”

But it is bad for you. Read this article from the New York Times Magazine. Do even a tiny bit of digging on your own.

Adderall is one of the many ways your kid’s world is not like the world you grew up in.

For a bit more about how drugs today are not like what you grew up with, check out our companion website on parenting with today’s drugs. Prepare yourself and stay clear eyed. You’ve got to look forward, not behind, if you want to stay ahead of your kids.

For more information, try these resources:

New York Times Magazine article

https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/prescription-stimulants

Watch Out for Parent-Unfriendly Snapchat

  By Katie Mest and Erick Lauber

The whole point of social media is to interact with friends and share experiences. However, like many good things, some sites and apps can become dangerous if they are not used properly.

Snapchat is a popular photo/video sharing app that many, many teens have on their phones. It’s original appeal was that the photo would disappear within 1-10 seconds after viewing. This made kids think they could share photos without anyone (read: their parents) even knowing. Of course, other kids soon learned they could take a “screen grab” of the photo and store it that way. Or use someone else’s phone to take a picture of the picture. What kids don’t always understand is: there is no eraser function on the Internet. Once it’s out there, it’s out there.

Does your kid have this app?  According to recent research, 92 percent of 12-17 yr old American teens have this app. Seventy-nine percent of Snapchat users do so daily.  Yes, your kid has this app, or will soon. And they will use it.

So, if your child decides to make a Snapchat account, here are some things you can do:

Look at their friends list.

If you notice their friends are the same people they talk to on a daily basis, you are most likely OK. But that doesn’t mean they won’t send a nude or inappropriate photo at some point.

Most of the time, they won’t. Kids use Snapchat to hold normal conversations. Sending a picture instead of a text adds another dimension of emotion, like using facial expressions and filters that make them look funny.

On the other hand, if you don’t recognize some of the names on the list, or if the usernames contain inappropriate terms, ask your kid about it.  Make sure they know the other person in real life. Kids sometimes receive random “add account” requests from people they don’t know. Make sure your kid knows the dangers of interacting and exchanging pictures with strangers.

If they accidentally add someone they don’t know, or if one of their friends starts sending inappropriate pictures, tell your child to “unadd” them and “block” them.  The best way to control Snapchat is to control who your kid connects with.

Pay attention to when and where they are Snapchatting.

It’s not always a red flag if your kid disappears to their room and gets on Snapchat. Kids – especially teenagers – just want a certain level of privacy. However, don’t let your young child have their phones at night. We’ll say more on that in another post.

The big problem is that your child may think their picture really does disappear and this might tempt them into taking an inappropriate picture. That’s what you really want to put a stop to.  Don’t let them take the phone into the bathroom, especially if you hear a picture-capturing *click*.

If you decide to make yourself a Snapchat account to keep an eye on them, know that they can block you from seeing their stories without you ever knowing it. Yes, Snapchat is sneaky like that.

You can go through the motions of making a Snapchat account, but your child can add you as a friend and still hide what they are posting from you.

They can do this in general or do it on a Snap-to-Snap basis. They can easily post their stories that you can see whenever its appropriate (like a puppy pic or a selfie), but block you from seeing other posts (like ones from that party you didn’t know they went to).

The best thing you can do in terms of Snapchat is have an open line of communication with your child. Discuss how they are using the app and let them know the dangers. This is not one of the more “parent-friendly” apps, but as long as your kid knows what to stay away from, they should be safe.

For basic information about Snapchat, look here

https://mycrazygoodlife.com/how-to-check-snapchat/

Heard of a similar app, VSCO?  Here’s our warning.

VSCO: Photography App Gone Wrong?

  By Morgan Rihn and Erick Lauber

OK parents. You’re a bit scared of social media, so you’ve been monitoring things. Maybe you’re using your account to “creep” on your kid’s Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest account. But have you tried VSCO?

You haven’t heard of VSCO?

Your children probably have. VSCO is another social media app but it used only for posting photos. Unlike Instagram, VSCO has limited social interaction. There is no commenting or instant messaging. Although you can republish (sharing), favorite (liking), take, import and edit photos, you cannot engage in conversation with your followers. VSCO has gained a tremendous amount in popularity and is used heavily by “artists” seeking to share their photography.

Is VSCO dangerous?

If there is a problem with VSCO, it is that anyone can see your profile and your photos. There are very limited security settings in VSCO. People can search you by your username and they can re-post your pictures very easily. A Google search can also bring up anyone’s VSCO profile (along with all their other social media). Basically, anyone can see anything you post.

One concern is that, unless your kid knows exactly what they are doing and has turned off several buttons, VSCO will share their location (if its generally available on their phone). This I am not happy about. I don’t want my teen or pre-teen letting others know where they are. Particularly if they are sharing photos of themselves.

And even though an initial account is kind of invisible – you’d need to know the account name to find it – kids today are linking their VSCO account to their other profiles. Therefore, their friends and others can go directly to the photos they upload.

VSCO has become very popular with teens.  But because it’s not as popular with parents and other adults, teens are sometimes (often times?)  using this platform to post pictures they don’t want their parents to see. Some of these contain nudity, drugs, and alcohol.

This is the real danger. Just like Snapchat and many other photo-sharing apps/websites, teens and pre-teens may be doing stupid things.

So, the bottom line is VSCO is another app you will have to monitor. Unfortunately, one of its newest security features is the ability to “block”. So… maybe you’ll get blocked.

Of course, the answer is not going to be “continue making fake accounts to monitor your kids’ activity”.  Your kid can just continue to make a new fake account for every account you find.

Instead, talk to your kids. Remind them that their digital footprint is forever.  They always have to be smart about what they are posting.  Explain the danger of posting inappropriate content. Maybe find some stories or examples that will drive the point home.

And, of course, make rules they have to follow. When they violate them, enforce your rules.

A positive perspective.

Of course, not everyone uses VSCO in a bad way. It is very artistic site. Many people use VSCO to practice their photography and editing skills, which is what the app was created for. If your kid seems able to handle themselves and really wants some exposure for their creative photographs, it is a pretty good site.

For more parenting reviews on VSCO, look at:

https://www.saferkid.com/app-reviews-for-parents/vsco-cam

https://www.fosi.org/good-digital-parenting/what-vsco/

For more information about VSCO, check out:

https://www.bewebsmart.com/app-review/what-is-vsco/

https://vsco.co/about/company

Heard of a very similar app, Snapchat? Here’s our post on it.