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  • Writer's pictureLaura Hawkins

Parenting from the Sidelines

As our children grow up, we take on a different role as parents when helping them manage their relationships with peers. We move from being the referee, where we can get involved, stop fights, talk to other parents or adults to negotiate the issues – to a coach, watching from the side-lines, offering advice, high-fiveing when things go well and rubbing their back when it is hard.

This transition can be a bit of a minefield full of lessons learnt along the way. As we make our way through this transition, there are some things that can be useful to think about so we can be the best coach for our children as they launch into the social world independently.

What gets in the way of our Coaching?

As parents, we want to be the coach that our children come to with their concerns or issues. One of the biggest forces that can stop us being that coach for our kids is the way we deal with their big emotions and problems. As the coach, our job is to listen, acknowledge what our child is feeling and then help them to problem solve the steps forward. However, our triggers can often get in the way of being a coach and move us to referee again.

As human beings, we all have areas that really strike a chord with us, pushing us to react quickly with not much thought – whether we move straight into ‘fix-it’, being defensive or passive. It is important as parents that we recognise when we are being triggered so we can take a few deep breaths before moving to coach our children. By pausing and taking a breath catch our triggers before they cloud our actions and words making it much easier to sit with our child when they are upset or angry, rather than jumping to a conclusion on how it should be dealt with. We can provide examples of game plays that have worked for us previously and help our children see that there is hope on the other side of the difficulty, without fixing it ourselves.

On the Sidelines

As a coach, watching from the sidelines as goals are missed and players are given the yellow cards is difficult. As parents, we can often be left feeling hopeless and worried about the future for our children. However, we need to remember that the teenage years are a time where children are launching from the family unit into the land of independence and developing their own social circles. It will be a time of trial and error, friendships made and lost and risks taken – just think back to your own adolescence!

As parents, our job is to be there for our children, to be present when they check-in (even if this is just through a brief text message), and continue to show them unconditional love. All your parenting leading up to the teenage years is coming into play as children develop their own identity and value system.

The Coaching Team

When does a coach access support? When do the players need to attend extra coaching sessions? These are the questions that are often asked when challenges arise. Have a look around your support circles – are there people around you and your child that can cheer you on or support you through this transition? School staff, sport coaches, family members and friends, or youth group leaders. Online support groups and telephone support such as Lifeline may also be useful as a sounding board. Your GP could also be someone that you talk through your issues with to see if referrals to health professionals would be useful. Remember you are not alone in your coaching of a teenager, other parents are feeling the struggles of negotiating these transition points as they launch their children into independence and themselves into the new coaching role.


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