It’s no secret that growing up has its ups and downs. Children and teenagers everywhere are dealing with the pressures of developing into who they want to be — all while dealing with the expectations of their parents, peers, and society.
Children and teens are slowly exposed to greater responsibilities and challenges over time, and as they mature, they begin to react to the world around them as they come to understand it.
This is a complicated process that’s unique to every child. Lately, teens have been overcome with the pressures of the pandemic, social media, and navigating a changing world. Recent studies show that 3-5% of adolescents have an anxiety disorder.
Mental health can look different in every kid and teen. The same can be said for young gymnasts.
Teens may have their own insecurities they’re battling, whether they’re comparing themselves to their peers or facing an inner battle with mental health.
Even the best gymnasts in the world feel their share of pressure and stress. Simone Biles, the most renowned Olympic gymnast in the world, had to step back to care for her mental health.
No one should feel pressured to prioritize an activity over their well-being, and this is especially true for gymnasts and athletes.
Your gymnast’s mental health is just as important as their physical health. You can help care for their well-being by having open conversations about their mental health and discussing the importance of balance.
Why is Mental Health Important For Young Gymnasts?
Being an athlete can come with stressors for teens. Young gymnasts may find themselves facing the expectations of others and their own self-esteem. As they try to balance the stress of performing along with school, their relationships, and simply growing up, young gymnasts often have a lot on their plate.
This can be even more overwhelming for teens as they enter puberty. As they train in the gym, their bodies may develop differently than their peers, which can be a source of insecurity.
That doesn’t mean your child shouldn’t feel encouraged to put themselves out there. Just remember to support your child and acknowledge their needs. Ask them about how they’re feeling and look for any signs that they may be mentally or emotionally overwhelmed.
There’s no shame in stepping back or taking a break, and your gymnast can return when they’re ready.
Teaching your young gymnast to maintain their mental health is an essential part of taking care of their body and brain.
Pushing themselves into burnout can cause chronic stress which can lead to a number of chronic health issues like depression, diabetes, asthma, arthritis, and heart disease. Chronic stress can also impact your teen’s sleeping habits. This can lead to lack of energy and strength during training resulting in more injuries and accidents.
Your child can’t perform to the best of their ability if their mental or emotional state is struggling to keep up. Stress can directly affect your child’s endurance, strength, and motivation.
This is why it’s important for young gymnasts to prioritize their mental health — neglecting it will only hurt them further down the line and may compromise their ability to perform.
Last year, the world’s most decorated gymnast, Simone Biles, announced she would be withdrawing from last year’s all-around gymnastics Olympic event. She brought to light just how important it is that we listen to our youth and care for their mental and emotional well-being.
She chose to preserve her well-being over-performing at the 2021 Olympics.
While some were confused by her sudden decision, she received global support for having the strength and courage to prioritize her health over the expectations of others.
What Can Affect a Young Gymnast’s Mental Health?
As young gymnasts juggle school, their social lives, and gymnastics, many feel the pressure to be “good enough” for their peers, parents, and coaches. Gymnasts of all ages may feel the need to overcompensate or be validated by coaches as they train to keep up with the competition.
The prevalence of social media also plays a huge role in the development of children and teens today. With how easy it is to find all sorts of content online with the tap of a screen, people everywhere are exposed to topics and trends that may not be the best for their mental health.
That might mean unhealthy trends around appearance, weight loss, or habits for the sake of “fitting in.”
Children and teens are easily influenced. Seeing anything repeatedly can change the way they view themselves and the world around them. As kids are regularly exposed to unrealistic beauty standards, trends, and the pressure to match what they see on screen, it can cause them to question their own image.
Kids and teens face a unique pressure at a scale like never before. They’re driven to look a certain way or maintain a certain figure. Pair this with the pressures of being an athlete, and young gymnasts may feel even more stressed.
As your gymnast balances school, training, and relationships, it’s important to make sure they still have time to be a kid. A rigid schedule with high expectations may not be the healthiest way to bring out the best in them, and if they’re struggling to keep up, it will only stress them out even more if they fall behind.
Like every growing teenager, young gymnasts are learning how to navigate the world and deal with their emotions. As they develop, it’s important to offer your full support and guidance along the way.
Ways to Support Your Gymnast’s Mental Health
There are several ways you can be there for your child when they need your support:
- Ask your child if anything is stressing them out, show that they can confide in you and that you’re empathetic to their issues.
- If your child is worried about something or has been going through a rough patch, offer to take them out for a bit of fun.
- Encourage body positivity and give them space to explore how they feel about their body.
- Don’t minimize or invalidate your child’s stress.
- Keep track of the kinds of content your child consumes online. You may not be able to monitor everything, but it helps to discuss the importance of balancing their online lives with their offline ones.
If you notice your child is struggling or overwhelmed by their training and it’s having a negative impact on their mental well-being, it may be time to consider taking a break from the sport.
Gymnastics can be a fun and rewarding form of therapy for a lot of kids, but if your gymnast is struggling, they can always step back and try again later. They’ll return in better spirits and stronger than ever before.
We’ll Support Your Gymnast Along Their Journey
At Mountain Kids, we strive to help young gymnasts realize their full potential. Our compassionate and talented instructors are ready to support your child along their athletic journey and bring out the best in them.
Growing pains are real, and you can rely on us to challenge your gymnast while being sympathetic to their needs. We know your child is capable of anything, and we’re here to help them realize that.
Another way to help teach your kids about mental health is through better understanding their minds and bodies.