“Is that normal?” is a question I’ve heard a lot as a pediatrician. And with fall sports in full swing, I find some parents struggle with the idea that their child just isn’t interested in participating in organized sports.
Is that normal? Yes.
Is it okay? Yes.
What should I do about it? Keep him active and happy doing something else he enjoys.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends at least 60 minutes of activity every day. It’s important to introduce kids to physical activity and encourage them to find something they enjoy doing – whether it’s organized sports or just getting outside for a walk or bike ride.
If he wants to try a sport and then wants to stop, understand why and set up a plan to discontinue. Does he have to finish out the session? It depends on why he wants to stop.
For example, if his size and ability would cause him injury if he continued then he should stop. Don’t look at him as a failure if he doesn’t have the capabilities or the desire to continue. Praise the fact that he tried!
Forcing a child to participate if she doesn’t enjoy it or isn’t good at it can lead to the child not wanting to try other things in the future. It may also cause her to suffer from bullying, injury or low self-esteem in the future.
If your child doesn’t show an interest in a sport or if he doesn’t have the confidence to participate in an organized team activity, it’s okay. Instead, try doing something together as a family such as walking, shooting hoops, throwing a ball around, swimming or riding bikes.
The key is keeping kids active. Some kids may just feel more comfortable doing individual activities rather than in front of their peers.
It’s important to talk with your child about her likes and dislikes with sports and other activities. It’s also helpful to share other activities with her such as concerts, theatre and art museums so she can see all the different opportunities available.
After trying a new activity, ask him how he feels about it. Always ask, “Would you like to try it?” Sometimes just knowing he has options outside of sports gives him the support and confidence he needs to find a fit.
Often, parents have a harder time digesting the news their child doesn’t want to play a sport than the child himself. If a parent is a sports enthusiast, another approach may be involving your child in the sports you like by watching a game, attending an event or playing with him one on one.
Exposure to sports may help both parent and child find common ground and a love for an activity that they experience together rather than playing on a team.
Since so many things socially evolve around sports, it’s important you help your child overcome the feeling of being ‘left out’ if he doesn’t play a particular sport. Focus on the strengths and interests he does have and encourage him to develop friends with similar interests.
Remember, everyone is different. We all have our strengths and it may take some kids more time than others to find something they like to do. Communication is the key. Give your child time to discover what interests her and give her the confidence to try something different and the okay if it’s just not for her.