As our kids get older, they need us less and less. We shouldn’t pack their swim bags or rush home for forgotten equipment. Our kids should be more independent by the time they’re in high school—both in school and around the pool.
I spoke with Ron Aitken, Head Coach and CEO of Sandpipers of Nevada, a Gold Medal Club in USA Swimming’s Club Excellence Program. He is a former coach of 2016 Olympian, Cody Miller. You can read more about Coach Aitken’s advice in the 2016 Swimsuit Issue of SwimSwam magazine.
His advice to swim parents surprised me. He said we need to stay involved!
“Don’t be a helicopter parent, but stay involved. Get your ducks in a row, check off the list what needs to happen next to help your child get into the right school,” Coach Aitken said.
“Number one mistake, when kids start to drive, their parents stop being involved. They need to stay in tune. Don’t let go and leave it all up to the kids. There is a lot of information being communicated as kids get ready for college. Kids don’t communicate that well with their parents on what is going on. Without parents on deck or involved in any way, kids can let up and not try as hard.”
At Sandpipers, Coach Aitken said they help with the recruiting process and review what it’s like to swim in college. “There are personal things that kids need to learn. We try not to overwhelm them. We rehearse with them what they may need to know, such as what they can do to eat right, get plenty of rest and how to work with a new coach. They need to keep up with their studies. We talk about what roadblocks they may face.”
Swim parenting is a balancing act. We need to be involved, but not be helicopter parents. Here are three tips for swim parents of teenagers:
Stay involved, but not overly so.
We need to do as Coach Aitken says—know what is going on with the team and our kids’ schedules. We need to be around some of the time, but not hovering.
Prepare your kids to be on their own.
I’ve learned through trial and error that kids need to know basic life skills, from pumping gas to budgeting their money. Does your child know how to address an envelope? Will they be comfortable talking with their professors? If we’ve done everything for them, it’s surprising what they won’t know and how unprepared they’ll be.
Be there for support.
It’s our job to listen, talk and let them know we love them unconditionally. We want them to be able to call us with confidence, to share horrible news as well as their accomplishments.
What other tips do you have for swim parents about letting go?
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.