By the time you read this, we’ll know the answer to the most important question in the history of ever: Will my twelve year old make the junior high cheerleading squad? As I write these words, she is working and wishing and hoping with the kind of fervor that should be able to move mountains. But will it?
I talked with a friend a few days ago about the agony of watching your child want something so desperately, yet being powerless to ensure she gets it. I asked her how she diffused that tension for her own daughter a couple of years ago. Her answer struck me as profoundly wise. “We talked with Margaret a lot before tryouts about doing her best, but trusting that God has a plan for where she will serve her school next year. If his plan is for her to serve on the cheer squad, that’s great. But if his plan is for her to be a part of another team or club, we know that it will also be great. We just put the focus on trusting God to make it less traumatic if it didn’t work out.”
My friend’s philosophy rang true for us, and we’re using it to coach our daughter’s heart and mind while her tumbling/cheer teacher coaches her body in preparation for the big day. Find out what else you can do to prepare your child for big challenges.
Get your own mind right, mom.
It’s hard on a mom’s heart to watch her child put themselves out there, knowing it will be painful if it doesn’t work out. But that alone isn’t a reason not to try. There are multiple benefits to taking healthy risks as a child, and we as parents can set the stage for those risks to have maximum benefit and minimal downside – if we’re disciplined with our own emotions and advice.
Ask your child why he™/she wants to make this particular team or group.
While the answers may seem obvious, having your kid put into words why the tryout is important will let you both make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. Sometimes our kids become convinced that something is a must do just because certain friends are pursuing it. And while enjoying an activity with friends is an added benefit, your child needs to have a true interest in the activity itself to make the effort worth it.
Find out if your child is willing to put the work into preparing.
Whether it’s workouts to get in top shape for baseball tryouts or hours of rehearsal to prepare for the youth symphony audition, your child’s willingness to work will be critical to his success. Make sure they understand that only they can control this critical part of the equation—and how a strong work ethic will always be important in life.
Put the big day in perspective.
This is the hardest part: Help your child understand that even if they don’t make the team or group, it’s not the end of the story. There’s always next year, and other things to invest in while they wait for another opportunity to try. Help your child understand that being a part of the team or group isn’t who they are—it’s just a thing they do. That’s actually good advice even when they do make the team.
Help your child understand that being a part of the team or group isn’t who they are—it’s just a thing they do.
Point to the big picture.
Every time we put ourselves out there and try something new, we learn new things about ourselves. In my daughter’s case, whether she makes the cheer squad or not, her months of tumbling practice and conditioning have taken her to a whole new level of physical fitness. She can do things neither of us were sure she could do before this whole adventure began. So win or lose, she’s better off for the experience.
Remind your child that God has a plan for her life.
This is a tough one for adults too, so don’t be frustrated if your child struggles to grasp it. God loves us and we can trust him, even when things don’t turn out exactly as we planned. As a matter of fact, when we pursue something and it doesn’t work out, it serves as confirmation that God has something even better in mind—even if it’s just different timing. Helping your child to understand this will equip her to face challenges big and small with peace for her entire life.
How do you encourage your child to face challenges where success—as they define it—is not guaranteed?
Dana Hall McCain writes about marriage, parenting, faith and wellness. She is a mom of two, and has been married to a wonderful guy for over 18 years.