Teenagers, Child Custody and Extracurricular Activities…what is the fight over?

Children who participate in physical activities such as sports experience positive health benefits, including decreased likelihood of obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and some types of cancer (Council of Physical fitness and sports).  According to several articles, including the article published by the University of Florida, children who participate in sports are less likely to engage in drugs and alcohol than children who do not participate in sports.  Teenage girls are less likely to engage in risky sexual behaviors and become pregnant than girls who do not participate in sports.

Chilren who participate in sports also experience positive effects on their moods, mental health and self-esteem.  Children participating in sports overall have higher self-esteem and confidence than those not participating in sports.  Additionally, children partipating in sports develop better social skills, develop friendships, manage conflict, follw rules and overall receive higher grades that those that do not participate in sports.  Overall, organized sports have more positives than negatives and children should be encouraged to play sports.  Children who play sports statistially grow up into successful adults (American Academy of child and adolescent psychiatry: children and sports).

With all the above information readily available and published, WHY do parents who are not together BATTLE in court around their children playing sports?

Simple…these parents are most likely thinking about ‘their time’ rather than the ‘child’s time’.  Parents who will not allow or will not bring their child to practices and/or games may say “I don’t get enough time, therefore my time is more important” or “I live too far away and this cuts into of my time,” etc.  However, when the parents were together (presuming they were), they may have agreed to this sport or extra curricular activity for their child(ren) and since they are no longer together, they disagree on extra curricular activities (amongst many other issues). The question is ‘what about the child(ren)?’ and their desires?  Statistics have proven children who come from divorce/single parents have a higher risk of suicide, early sexual exploration, drugs/alcohol misuse, pregnancy, delinquency, poor grades, etc.  Although parents may know this information, they continue to deny or withhold their child(ren) playing sports.  These parents are usually the ones with less time with their child(ren) and/or live more than thirty minutes away from the other parent who may have more residential time.  However, there are parents who live nearby and still refuse their child to be involved in extra curricular activities.  Why?

Legal analysts and psychologists have studied these high conflict families and their unwillingness to see what is best for their children because these parents are wrapped up in their own emotional world rather than think about what is best for their children. (This article does not pertain to the parents who signs their child(ren) up for two plus sports during the same season and overloads their schedules (that is another issue for another day)). When emotions drive the decisions, this can be disastrous especially provided when children are involved. Some parents ask, “why does my child/teen deny seeing me or not want to see me?” Or blame the other parent who may have signed their child(ren) up for the sport the child has been playing for years or possibly a new sport because this ‘cuts into their parenting time’.

Let’s be realistic and begin thinking logically about what is best for your children and ensure a healthy, well-rounded upbringing rather than counting days, hours and minutes. At the end of the day, parents have 18 short years to raise their child(ren) into responsible, secure, healthy adults. Having their children involved in a sport and other extra curricular activities is extremely beneficial for their children’s overall well-being listed above and may negate the disadvantages of divorce and/or single parenting. Whether you and the other parent are involved in high conflict custody litigation or have minor disputes, try to put your feelings aside and do what is right for your children. If your child wants to play sports and is having fun and prospering, why not enjoy watching them rather than fight with the other parent?

Written by Rochelle Long, MA, LMHC

References:

American Academy of Pediatrics

https://www.muhealth.org/conditions-treatments/pediatrics/adolescent-medicine/benefits-of-sports

https://novakdjokovicfoundation.org/5-benefits-sports-kids/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/co-parenting-after-divorce/201706/understanding-children-s-best-interests-in-divorce

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/surviving-your-childs-adolescence/201112/the-impact-divorce-young-children-and-adolescents

National Alliance for Youth Sports

National SAFE KIDS Campaign American Sports Education Program (ASEP)

president’s council of physical fitness

Published by longcounseling

Rochelle Long is a Licensed Mental Health Therapist, Divorce Coach, and Child Specialist specializing in individual, couples, children and adolescent, and family therapy, and maintains a private practice in Everett, Washington. Rochelle Long also works with youth, young adult, and adult athletes and provides mental fitness training to help the athlete find their inner strength and help build (or re-build) their self-esteem, goals, etc. Rochelle Long also works with families in conjunction with the athlete due to the high stress and demands placed on athletes today. With over fourteen years experience as a Licensed therapist and child specialist, and as a graduate of Sage University, Albany, NY specializing in Clinical Psychology, I am currently serving as a private practitioner working with a broad spectrum of clients. Among my areas of expertise are mental fitness training with athletes at all levels, depression and anxiety, eating issues/body image, divorce/separation/high conflict cases, parenting issues, co-parent counseling, children and adolescents, couples and family counseling. In addition to being a prominent family systems therapist, I also work with many high conflict cases and help many divorcing/separating couples resolve their differences without going to court. I believe we have the ability to work out differences when we can surpass our emotions and truly feel heard. I assist divorcing/separating couples deal with their emotional pain and help them work together collaboratively for what is best for their family. I help them get from "couple mode to parent mode." I also work as a Child Specialist and assist the children to have a "voice" about their parents divorce/separation. Additionally, I help families reconnect through "reunification" and "supervised visits" with the goal of reuniting children and families back together. I am also an interactive, solution-focused therapist, and cognitive behavioral therapist. This therapeutic approach is to provide support and practical feedback to help clients effectively address personal life challenges. I integrate complementary methodologies and techniques to offer a highly personalized approach tailored to each client. With compassion and understanding, I work with each individual to help them build on their strengths and attain the personal growth they are committed to accomplishing. Additionally, I work with athletes at all levels, from beginners to competing levels. Rochelle Long has extensive experience working with athletes and mental fitness training to help the athlete find their inner strengths, goals, and experiences to produce better performance and outcome both in the sport, and personally. She works with parents and families as well to help them understand the pressures placed on athletes today, and ways to encourage them from the 'sidelines' and not be the 'other coach.' Rochelle Long works with coaches to help them find ways to understand the mental component in sports, and techniques that will better help their athletes. I am a member with American Mental Health Association (AMHA), International Academy Collaborative Law (IACP), AFCC (Association of family and conciliation courts). King County Collaborative Law (KCCL), North Sound Collaborative Law, Mediation Services, Supervised Network (SN), ACSM, USAH, and Peak Performance.

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