Youth Sports & Co-Parenting: A Pairing that is Unavoidable

Many people agree that participation in  youth sports offers many benefits for children such as confidence building, exercise, exploring new interests, team camaraderie, patience, and lessons on how  to win and lose with grace – to name a few.

For children living with parents going through a divorce, involvement in sports can provide a much-needed escape from the stress.  Practices and games become a “safe space” for the child outside of the house and away from the disagreements that are happening at home between their parents.  Involvement in team sports can also serve as a stabilizing activity in a child’s life at a time when everything in their world may be changing such as learning to transition between two households or moving to a new home altogether. Sports can serve as a much-needed buffer. However, this safe haven can often be ruined by divorcing or divorced parents who allow their animosity to spill over onto the field.

Simple issues such as responsibility for pick up and drop off and transportation can quickly snowball out of control and ruin the experience for the child. The most stressful part of the experience can often stem from how the parents act towards one another when jointly attending a game or practice. This is particularly true when one of them brings their new significant other to the event.  Engaging in arguments while attending a child’s sporting event is highly stressful and embarrassing for children. Divorced or divorcing parents need to remember why they are there and put their children first.

A parent can lose their right to go to sporting events if they don’t behave appropriately. A child’s sporting event is not the time to have a confrontation with the other parent. In addition, toxic behavior, such as posting negative comments on social media during a sporting event is highly detrimental to a child. Normally each parent has the right to attend their child’s events regardless of whether it is their day to be with the child.  If parents want their children to continue participating and reaping the benefits of organized sports, they must learn to leave their animosity in the parking lot and work together to support and celebrate their child’s accomplishments.

Should a situation become untenable for both parties, agreements can be reached where attendance at the child’s events are divided in such a way that they are not required to attend together.  You can alternate attendance at games, divide seasons or even designate a parent for each sport if the child plays more than one.

These issues commonly arise when divorce occurs and the children are involved in team sports.  In the end, it should be about the child’s continued involvement and happiness. It is up to the parents to ensure that the activity remains a positive outlet and a safe haven in their child’s life. Mediation is a highly effective process that can help parents reach agreements about these and all other issues attendant to divorce, in a cost-effective and private process that eliminates a prolonged litigated divorce.  Mediation is best suited for couples who are willing and able to effectively communicate and work together to reach a mutually beneficial agreement that works for their family.

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