Losing is never a fun thing and especially not when you are a young hockey player. Children give there all usually and have a natural competitive instinct. That is what makes losing so much harder for them.
Are they winning for the team or for you?
Strange things can happen in a child’s mind. They may think they need to win in order to stay a part of the team. For them playing and being a part of the team is all about being good enough and so if the team lose, they may think to themselves that it was their fault. In that they may also think that it means they aren’t good enough to be part of the team anymore.
Another even stranger thing that may be going through their mind is that they have to win for you, to show you they are good enough. And yes, you might think I’m crazy, but this is the nature of a child’s mind. You didn’t put the thought there. But, they may be thinking it.
That is why losing is such a big deal. Emotionally.
When the team loses and your child sees themselves as the reason they lost, then they become incredibly sad. Often it isn’t easy for them to express how they feel, especially if they are part of a tough team and by tough, I mean emotionally tough. There’s no room for ‘sissy’ behavior such as crying on the team.
Of course, it is not you that thinks there is a problem with crying when you’re sad, but the other children on the team may not be so sensitive and accepting of this behavior.
Ways to support your child.
Here are some things you can do to support your child through a loss, emotionally:
- Let them be sad. Sometimes as a parent we don’t want to see our child be sad because we feel that emotionally ourselves, yet there is nothing wrong with sadness. When you allow emotions to have a life and flow as they normally would, without stopping them, they flow and naturally dissolve. The issues occur when we block the emotional flow. So let your child experience their grief, their sadness as losing and be okay with that.
- Talk to them about how they are feeling. If they don’t want to talk or open up to you, let it slide for a couple of hours and then ask them again. They may simply deal with their sadness and be fine in a short period of time. Great! If you notice they aren’t okay, find the time to have a conversation about how they are feeling.
- Ask them what they saw were the reasons for the loss? With this question you will find out if they are blaming themselves for the loss. If that’s the case maybe you can bring a different perspective as to what you saw with regards to the teams performance. Highlight areas where there were breakdowns in the total team play. This could shift their perspective to realize the loss is not all their fault.
The more you, as a parent, can be comfortable with your child’s emotions and help them to be comfortable with them too, the easier life will be for them, especially when things such as a game loss occur.
Having trouble with the mental side of the game of hockey? Karen Cherrett, Emotions Educator and Mental Skills Coach helps players to understand how their thoughts impact their game; Parents how to support their child's mental wellness; and Coaches to understand mental skills management for their players.