There are limitless lessons to learn from being a swim parent. I’ve learned new things each and every year of my 23 years as a parent—15 of them on deck. I cringe at some of the awful mistakes I’ve made. One goal of swim parenting is to keep our kids in the water, if that’s what they choose. We don’t want to be one of the reasons why they’ve given up on their dreams and love of swimming.
Here are a few ideas on how we can improve and do a better job:
Be a good role model.
Personally, I’m a busy and active person. Although, I’m new to masters swimming, I’ve been engaged in golf, hiking, skiing and ballet for most of my life. My kids know that I value being physically fit and enjoy sports. Naturally, if we value sports and athletics, our children will likely be active, too.
Expose your kids to many sports.
Talking to swim parents of kids who have made it to the highest levels, I learned that early on they exposed their kids to a number of sports. Their kids did not specialize in swimming at a very young age. Not only did this help them to not burn out, but the kids ultimately decided on swimming as the sport they loved, which created a sense of ownership.
When the kids are teenagers, don’t let go.
It’s a balancing act to be a swim parent. As the kids get older, we should do less and less for them. But, it’s important to stay involved. Kids, especially teenagers, are not always the best communicators with mom and dad. If we rely on them to drive themselves to the pool every day and we don’t stay up to date with the team, we may miss some valuable information. Plus, if we don’t appear supportive and involved, our kids may lose interest, too.
Remember it’s your child’s sport.
It’s easy to get caught up in swimming and take over. The pool should be our children’s domain—and their coaches. We may want to make suggestions, or offer advice on everything from what events they should swim to technique. My kids did not ever say, “Thank you mom. I couldn’t have done it without you telling me to kick harder.” We need to let our kids learn from their sport, especially from their successes and mistakes. Sometimes it’s best to listen and not talk, except to say, “I love to watch you swim.”
What tips do you have to improve and be a better swim parent?
Elizabeth Wickham volunteered for 14 years on her kids’ club team as board member, fundraiser, newsletter editor and “Mrs. meet manager.” She’s a writer with a bachelor of arts degree in editorial journalism from the University of Washington with a long career in public relations, marketing and advertising. Her stories have appeared in newspapers and magazines including the Los Angeles Times, Orange County Parenting and Ladybug. You can read more parenting tips on her blog.