Occer Mom Blog Parenting Positive Lifestyle

Occer Mom Blog Parenting Positive Lifestyle – Parents of a child or adolescent involved in sports know that youth sports require time, money, and emotional control along with the daily responsibilities of parents (Hayward et al., 2017). They also know that it comes with opportunities to face new challenges, belong to a community, and have positive experiences with their children (Wiersma & Fifer, 2008).

As a central force in many Canadian families, mothers play many roles in facilitating children’s play activities and maintaining family order. Many mothers take on these roles, and the time and energy required to always be a “good mother” can be spent on the mother’s physical and mental health.

Occer Mom Blog Parenting Positive Lifestyle

Occer Mom Blog Parenting Positive Lifestyle

According to Statistics Canada (2020), mothers spend more time on childcare and housework than fathers. Additionally, mothers often sacrifice their own needs for children’s leisure activities, including their own play and exercise participation (Bean et al., 2019). As a result, mothers have limited time to have fun and socialize.

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For example, research shows that mothers are less physically active than fathers and non-mothers (McIntyre & Rhodes, 2009). Unfortunately, for mothers, reduced time spent on these recreational activities increases the risk of mental health problems (Craike et al., 2010). Indeed, a review of mothers’ mental health showed that motherhood risk, fear of being a good parent, and general concern for the child’s well-being were common predictors of mental health problems among mothers (Blegen et al. 2010). Contexts that provide opportunities for validation and are conducive to their child’s well-being are ideal for targeting mothers’ mental health.

So the question is: Which scenario offers a way to cost-effectively promote maternal mental health while avoiding additional time and financial costs for mothers? With approximately 75% of Canadian youth participating in organized youth sport (Aubert et al., 2021), it is uniquely positioned to promote maternal well-being. This article describes how sports moms can improve the well-being of their children involved in youth sports through opportunities to guide, interact with others, feel pride and joy, strengthen family relationships, and engage in healthy behaviors.

Over decades of scientific research, several gender differences have emerged for sports mothers (Bean et al., 2014). These roles include organizing and preparing meals, transporting children to practices and competitions, washing uniforms and purchasing new equipment, and coordinating busy schedules (Cobble, 2010; Fraser-Thomas et al., 2013). Many mothers generously offer to emulate these roles for their child’s team members, sometimes taking on managerial or coaching positions within the team. In addition, mothers provide support and encouragement during matches and give their feedback during the car ride home (Thamminen et al., 2017).

The roles and responsibilities mothers play in youth sports can be stressful. However, there is reason to be optimistic about sport as a context for improving well-being among mothers (Sutcliffe et al., 2021). In fact, under the right conditions, organized sports can provide many benefits to mothers (Wiersma & Fifer, 2008). Opportunities for these benefits include:

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Mothers do so much for their children, families and youth sports communities. It’s time for youth sports programs to intentionally promote these results for moms.

Although coaching in youth sports is often considered a father’s role, mothers are equally equipped to coach and benefit greatly from coaching. In fact, mothers who coach report that coaching youth sports enriches their lives (Leberman & LaVoi, 2011). This is especially true when coaching mothers get more time with their child and their child’s group members, develop new life skills within the group, and serve as a positive role model (Leberman & LaVoi, 2011).

Coaching allows mothers to interact and connect with their child outside the home and become more familiar with their child’s friends (Leberman & LaVoi, 2011). This familiarity with the group can give mothers an understanding and peace of mind about the impact the group is having on their child. Moreover, being a coach can provide opportunities for mothers to build self-esteem among child athletes (Koble, 2010). As one practicing mother reported, “This self-esteem that you see in the success of kids doing well, I find that really rewarding” (Leberman & LaVoi, 2011, p. 481).

Occer Mom Blog Parenting Positive Lifestyle

Finally, coaching mothers challenge perceptions of women in sports leadership positions and represent positive role models for their athletes. Specifically, mothers who play their role as a coach can convey positive perceptions of female leadership to youth (and perhaps even to mothers’ partners and members of sports organizations) (Leberman & LaVoi, 2011). As a result, coaching mothers can change gender roles at the organizational level and encourage other women to volunteer for leadership positions in youth sports. However, not every mother wants to volunteer for a coaching position, so finding ways to increase mothers’ well-being through sport as a spectator is equally important.

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Youth sports are particularly well positioned for mothers to experience positive emotions from observing the development of child athletes (Bernston et al., 2011). Early on, engaging youth in sports provides mothers with basic feelings of satisfaction and excitement in response to providing their child with positive developmental experiences (Newport et al., 2020). Then, observing their child during training sessions and matches allows mothers to feel pride and joy in seeing their child cooperate with others, improve their skills, and experience their own positive emotions from the sport.

Positive and repetitive emotional experiences are fundamental to human well-being. Thus, the lasting nature of the positive experiences mothers have in sport is not trivial. Although an excellent initial focus, the positive emotions mothers experience from watching their child play are usually limited to practice and competition, representing only one part of the youth sport experience. Therefore, it is important to utilize each aspect of the youth sports system for the mental health of mothers and the social capital mothers can gain through their participation.

One of the most promising ways to promote mothers’ mental health in sport is through additional opportunities to interact with other adults (Brown, 2014). The relationship between social support and positive mental health is well established. Youth sports give moms an opportunity to make social connections with people they may never meet.

These relationships usually start with friendly greetings before and after matches, but are likely to develop into long-term friendships. For example, some sports mothers feel comfortable with other parents who help them cope with negative emotional experiences (Neely et al., 2017). Because youth sports seasons often last months, moms have time to immerse themselves in a community of sports moms and identify with their new social group.

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Sports moms begin to recognize the sports club as a meaningful social group (Peter, 2011). Group identities serve an important purpose in parents’ lives because they fulfill a basic human need—a sense of belonging (Baumeister & Leary, 1995). Participating in their child’s sports team can give mothers insight into similarities and connections with other parents. On the other hand, sports moms may consider the group to be an important and enjoyable part of their lives.

Developing new friendships and being part of a team are essential components of human well-being, and youth sports offer both. Promoting the socialization of mothers through youth sports should be a priority in everything they do in and out of sports. Likewise, the importance of sports in the family life of mothers is important.

Maintaining strong relationships among all members of the family unit is important for mental health. Youth sports provide many opportunities for mothers to strengthen their bond with their child or children.

Occer Mom Blog Parenting Positive Lifestyle

For example, although the transportation requirements of youth sports are often considered a burden, it provides time for parents and children to communicate (Tamminen et al., 2017). The transition period allows mothers time to provide performance-related feedback and positive reinforcement. It gives moms time to catch up on their kids’ day and discuss topics outside of sports.

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Moreover, sharing positive and negative play experiences can bring parents closer to their child (Clarke et al., 2016). For example, some parents have reported that avoiding hanging out with their child (cutting a group) improved their relationship (Neely et al., 2017). Taken together, opportunities to communicate with their child and help them manage their emotions through difficult experiences can have a positive impact on the parent-child relationship.

Along with the parent-child relationship, youth sport can also serve as a way for mothers to improve their relationships with their partners. Relationship satisfaction between parents’ couples is an important predictor of mental health, and the team effort required in youth sports parenting may benefit parents in this regard (Whitton & Wiseman, 2010).

In particular, couples can be burdened by the logistical challenges of having at least 1 child athlete, and it is important to openly discuss their child’s goals.

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