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How can I support my toddler during sibling sports?

~With summer sports seasons moving into full swing, this post is a good reminder for families with tag along toddlers.

Dear Mama Drama:

My husband and I have two older elementary and middle school age children who are very active in sports throughout the year. I also have a toddler who gets to tag along to all of their activities. Sometimes my little one does well and other times he really struggles and has big meltdowns. He gets tired and cranky, wants to be picked up or taken home, whines and throws fits, and the games and practices often interrupt his dinner and bedtime. I try to be flexible, but am often exhausted trying to entertain him and still support the older two. I need help juggling all of this, but don’t know where to turn. Any ideas?

~ Stumped Mama

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Dear Stumped:

Many families with children whose ages vary widely struggle to balance the needs of all the kids when it comes to extra-curricular activities. Each one uses a combination of solutions that fit for them. Here are some ideas:

While I’m sure you want to be at all of your older children’s activities, there may be times when you need to stay home with you little one to give him some down time. You and your husband may trade off staying home and going to games/practices or enlist  family or friends to transport your older kids or stay home with the younger one.

Ask family members to attend games and share in engaging and supporting your younger son.

Coordinate with other team parents who have younger children and take turns taking the young ones to a nearby park or out in the hallway to run or play games.

Enlist non-participating older siblings. Often there are siblings of team members at games and practices who are somewhat bored themselves. Younger siblings often love attention from these upper elementary and teenage children who will play with and entertain them just for the fun of it.

Bring activities for your younger son. You can bring some of his favorite toys and books along or have a special set that are only available during these activities. Be sure to rotate what you bring so he doesn’t get bored.

Pack snacks and drinks for your little one. Hungry kids are cranky kids, so be sure to have a variety of healthy snack options and plenty to drink.

Observe your younger son to catch the early signs that a melt down is coming. Rather than waiting for him to completely fall apart, look for the subtle signs of fatigue and irritability. (One clue can be when you are beginning to feel irritated by his behavior, he probably needs a change.) Then take action to feed him, give him a break, engage him in a new activity, or take him home.

I’m sure all you Mamas out there have lots of other great ideas that have worked for your families. Please share!!

Best-kept Secret in Colorado Kids’ Sports

I am a firm believer in keeping my kids active. Thankfully, the Recreation Districts where we live offer a wide variety of affordable sports programs that we’ve been taking advantage of since my kids could walk.

Some of the sports in which we’ve participated include:

  • Swimming Lessons
  • Dance Classes
  • Dive Team
  • Swim Team
  • Soccer
  • Baseball
  • Basketball, and
  • Lacrosse

Over the years we’ve become used to the crowds of parents and family members gathered to watch their kids play.  We’ve learned what to expect out of a kids’ game or meet and had our “been there, done that” mentality firmly entrenched.

Then we went to our first Cara Track meet.

How The NCAA Women’s Final Four Made Me A Basketball Fan

I am not really a “sporty” person. I played softball for one year, and mostly sat the bench. We do enjoy going out to sporting events, but – honestly – a lot of that is for the “going out” part of the equation. The crowd, the excitement, the yelling, the beer. Emphasis on beer.

Well, there was no beer at the college semi-finals in Denver Sunday night (emphasis on college), but there was A LOT of excitement and yelling. We saw both games of the Women’s Final Four: UConn vs. Notre Dame and Baylor vs. Stanford. I have been to the Pepsi Center for plenty of events, including Avalanche and Nuggets games – but I have never heard it that LOUD.

Mama Drama: Competition Quakes

Dear Mama Drama:

My daughter, age 8, signed up for a team sport this summer. We counseled her about the level of commitment it would take and were assured that she was up to it, even eager for it.

My daughter enjoys the practices but gets too nervous for the competitions! The first week she did it, but it took a lot of cajoling. She did feel good about it at the end. But the second week, no amount of cajoling would get her onto the field.

What are your ideas on handling her commitment? If she quits mid-season, should we make her responsible for some of the fees we paid? How do we help her to have a stake in this, without it being seen as punishment?

~ Questionning Commitment

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Dear Questioning:

Your daughter’s eagerness to join the team and actively engage in practices shows that this is an activity in which she wants to participate. Regardless of what she initially agreed to, however, she may have had no idea how anxious she would feel about playing in front of an audience in a competitive situation. Pressuring her or punishing her for being anxious is not going to make the situation better.

I suggest allowing her to continue on the team for the summer, thus following through with her commitment. Talk with her coach and make arrangements that meet your daughter’s needs. She can attend the practices and has the option of playing in the games. If she is too anxious to play, she can still attend the games, cheer on her teammates, and possibly support the team by having a job such as managing the line up. It will be important for the coach to be understanding and work with the team to be supportive as well. Your daughter will improve her skills and increase her confidence by continuing to practice and be part of the team.

Once she knows that you will give her a choice to play without pressure, give her the opportunity to talk about the thoughts and fears she experiences when thinking about the games. She may be afraid of getting hurt, letting down her teammates, being ridiculed, or doing something wrong. Validate her fears, they are very real for her, while giving her some perspective on how you may have felt in a similar situation. Her coach may also have some ideas that may help her.

Many of us experience mild to moderate anxiety and are able to work through it. However, many people experience severe, debilitating anxiety and panic attacks over which they have no control. Their responses often seem unreasonable or irrational to others, but they are very real to the person experiencing them. Your description of your daughter’s response tells me that her anxiety response is more than average stage fright or pre-game jitters and that she needs a lot of support working through this.

If her anxiety continues to be to this extreme or worsens, seek mental health support for your daughter. Learning to identify and manage her anxiety now will make a huge difference when facing other challenges as she gets older.

Many people also find relief from anxiety with Rescue Remedy®, a Bach Flower Essence combination, which supports nervous tension in crisis or stressful situations. Our family has found it very effective in calming nerves and facing fears and it is safe for children and adults.

Motherhood is an amazing journey that can have its share of Mama Drama. The Mama Drama column runs on Fridays with everyday mothering questions from readers and answers providing strategies to tackle these daily challenges. Send your questions and challenges to [email protected], and your Mama Drama could be in next week’s column! Lisa is also available for private consultations. All emails and identifying information will remain confidential.