I watched yet another kid climb into the window above the couch in my office. Within minutes, he jumped down, slam dunked a basketball at least 20 times, finally sat down on the floor and said, “Ok, now I’m ready.” He and I both knew what he meant. It was time to start the session. If I had tried to get him to start earlier, things wouldn’t have gone smoothly. In fact, he wouldn’t have been able to focus at all.
Following the session, I talked briefly with his mother. Her first question was, “He wants to play soccer but he’s already playing basketball. Is that too much?” My answer for the parent of this child, along with many other parents, is simple. Anxious kids have an excess amount of energy. Give them an opportunity to let it out and life will be much easier for not only them, but for everyone else in the house.
Just as I let him get some of his energy out before starting the session, it’s important for anxious kids to have MANY opportunities to get their energy out. It just so happens that one of the easiest ways is organized sports. Instead of you having to encourage them to get their energy out, the coach does that for you. Instead of you having to set aside time for exercise, practice and game times are already set. You just have to provide transportation.
In addition, studies have shown that children participating in sports, when compared to peers who do not play sports, exhibit:
• higher grades, expectations, and attainment
• greater personal confidence and self-esteem
• greater connections with school— that is, greater attachment and support from adults
• stronger peer relationships
• more academically oriented friends
• greater family attachment and more frequent interactions with parents
• more restraint in avoiding risky behavior; and
• greater involvement in volunteer work
As an anxious child myself, sports gave me both a physical and mental release. Basketball practice was the best part of my day because whatever I was worrying about before practice started seemed to work its way out by the time it ended. To this day, exercise proves to be my go-to release of both mental and physical energy. It was a tool I learned in childhood and is still beneficial to me as an adult.
If your anxious child wants to play sports, you are in luck. If he or she doesn’t, you may have to be more creative in finding a healthy outlet. But don’t worry, whatever outlet you can help your child find in childhood can become a healthy habit that will last a lifetime.