As a high-performance figure skater then hockey player I considered the arena to be a second home growing up.  As a young child I recall the early morning awakenings for practice, the long drives to out-of-town competitions, the help tying my skates when my fingers were too small and the ongoing encouragement from the bench and stands.

My sports and extra-curricular activities were heavily dependent on my parent’s support.  Participation in high-performance sport requires time and can be costly.  At the same time sport is an amazing outlet for children and adolescents dealing with stressful circumstances, such as parental divorce. With many children it eases their transition and adjustment to the new parenting arrangement.

Children often experience feelings of insecurity and uncertainty about the future following the announcement of parental divorce.  Supporting your child’s involvement in their sport throughout the divorce provides them with a sense of stability as it is an activity they get to partake in while in the care of either parent.

During divorce, it is important that parents establish a new parenting plan and the division of responsibility for keeping their children involved in sports.  Parents may differ in their level of investment in their child’s sport and disagreements often arise pertaining to costs and scheduling conflicts.

Several problems can arise from these conflicts:

  • A child may experience less enjoyment as both an athlete and teammate.
  • Conflict at home or at the arena creates distraction to your child and potentially the team.
  • Conflict between parents attending their child’s game may lead to embarrassment. This can often lead to the child no longer wanting to be there.
  • Conflict adds unnecessary pressure to your child.
  • Struggles to concentrate on the game can negatively impact a child’s performance. Further, children may attribute the ongoing performance struggles to the parental conflict.
  • Parental conflict can even negatively impact prospective recruitment as scouts look at additional factors beyond the athlete’s performance.

When making decisions regarding a child’s sport, parents should establish a common goal that allows for both parties to provide ongoing support.  Even if the child is aware that his/her parents do not get along, this shared goal will enable the child to stay focused on their sport.

The following tips will assist you in planning, so you can continue to be your child’s biggest fan:

  1. Create a plan with the other parent, preferably before the season starts, regarding who will be responsible for costs, transportation and assistance in the dressing room.
  2. As a parent, focus on helping your child in developing life skills through their sport (socialization, conflict management, resiliency, discipline, etc.).
  3. Remember your role in attending – let coaches coach, athletes play/perform and as parents you are there to provide support.
  4. If your child’s sport is more important to one parent, that parent may need to be willing to take on more of the cost and investment of time.
  5. Establish ground rules around how you will communicate about your child’s sport and regarding your behaviour when attending events.
  6. Consider how you may manage the discomfort of both parents are attending your child’s sporting activities. Remember, your child does not need the added distraction from worrying about you.

Throughout these activities remember you are there to support your child’s performance and enjoyment for the sport.  If you cannot co-exist peacefully, take turns attending.  Be sure to communicate to your child who will be transporting them to and from their activity, attending, and helping them in the dressing room (particularly for younger children as not knowing which parent will be stopping by the dressing room close to ice time can be scary and stressful!).

Lastly, create a plan that is sustainable and communicates love and support to your child. This will help them focus on the game and enjoy the experience!

Tanya Hutchinson is a registered Provisional Psychologist and is currently accepting new clients at the firm Fong Ailon.


Phone: 403.266.2017