Understanding the Sociological Development of Your Child


Parents should be aware of how the social relationships associate with sport participation.

Children (7 9 years old) face the challenge of learning how to get along with peers and how to deal with authority figures apart from their parents.

It is important for children to learn how to stand up for themselves among their peers while at the same time understand that their peers are different than they are. They must learn how to compromise for the sake of getting along, and how to cooperate and compete with their equals.

7 10 year olds are expressive, spontaneous, and egocentric. Adults should give them room to express themselves while at the same time establishing clear cut norms about honesty and playing by the rules. Because these children are in the process of learn¬ing acceptable means of achieving goals, parents and coaches should take care to make clearly explained dis¬tinctions between what is acceptable and what is not.

Pre adolescents (10 13) face the challenge of developing "best friend" relationships and gaining acceptance from peers.

Pre adolescents are figuring out how they are similar to and different from others. They go through a stage dur¬ing which close relations with same sex "best friends" are very important. They are very loyal to friends and greatly influenced by what friends think. Unfortunately, young adolescents can also be very exclusive in their peer groups such that those who are different are shunned or mocked. Being accepted and having someone to trust and confide in is of utmost importance. Pre-adolescents must have the opportunity to interact socially with same-sex peers on a regular basis. At the same time, try to create an environment of inclusions and acceptance of differences.

Adolescents (14 17 years) face the challenge of exploring who they are and how they fit into the world in which they live.

These young people try to answer the question "who am I?" They go through processes of identity testing and identity formation, often to a point that can be frustrating for the adults who know them! Adolescence is a time during which young people "try on" a variety of different identities in an attempt to discover and clarify values while exploring all the possibilities of who they might become as adults. What may seem like rebellion or acting out during this developmental stage, often may be athletes struggling to find identities that fit with their emerging sense of how they are connected to the world. As a parent, be tolerant and accepting of the various identities the athlete "tries on" by allowing them to explore and test new and different identities as long as they do not put themselves in danger and as long as their actions are not in too much conflict with your family values.

Older adolescents (16 19 years old) deal with the chal¬lenge of seeking independence and autonomy.

Older adolescents move closer to being independent, autonomous beings: con¬nected to but separate from others, in control of one's life but aware of limitations and boundaries. While complete independence and autonomy are not possible (nor is the individual ready for it), it is important that the athlete be allowed to make strides. If some auton¬omy is not allowed and encouraged, any organized sport or activity becomes a developmental dead end rather than a developmental opportunity. Feelings of independence and autonomy are derived, in part, from the sense that one has control over his or her life. Athletes who are allowed a voice in their athletic development are also more accountable.

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