There are countless things that are wonderful and rewarding when it comes to being a parent, but like anything, there are a few lowlights. Waking up your “anti-early bird” kid before sunrise would be somewhere near the top of that list. From the time they are tiny babies just home from the hospital, we are advised to sleep when they sleep (ha!) and to quiet anyone within a five-mile radius who could potentially wake our precious offspring.
All of that seemingly changes overnight when your kids get involved in hockey and there are crack-of-dawn (or earlier) morning practices on the schedule. Suddenly, your sweetly slumbering bundle of joy has transformed into a nearly comatose child, requiring a bullhorn and a forklift to get out of bed in the morning. When the practices are in the winter, which involves waking them with the sky still pitch black, it can get even more complicated. Faced with a potentially surly son or daughter, who can blame any parent for letting a child skip practice to grab a few more hours of sleep?
So what’s a parent to do? Here are some tips from the experts on how to make getting up for those early morning practices less stressful for all involved:
- Explain the ground rules from the start. When your son or daughter wants to sign up for any sport – but especially those like ice hockey that often require early morning practices – you need to first have a candid conversation with them about what will be expected throughout the entire season. Says David Benzel, founder of Growing Champions for Life, a non-profit that provides parents with strategies and tools to help raise principle-centered athletes: “There are going to be days when your child just doesn’t want to get up or doesn’t want to go to practice. That’s OK. Simply remind them of the commitment they agreed to at the beginning of the season and why it’s important for him or her to follow through.”
- Don’t withhold information. Not telling your child at the beginning of the season about those early practices isn’t going to make getting them out of bed any easier. “Some parents don’t give the student-athlete all the information about the requirements of the sport for fear that he or she isn’t going to want to play,” explains Dr. Larry Lauer, director of coaching, education, and development at the Institute for the Study of Youth Sports at Michigan State University. “Don’t withhold information. They need to make a yes or no decision about the sport with all the information at hand.”
- Help them see the big picture. Skipping an early morning practice occasionally to catch a few extra hours of sleep affects more than just the athlete. It can disrupt the whole team. “You want your child to understand that it’s not just about what’s good for them, but rather what’s good for the entire team,” says Lauer. The coach of a tennis team, for instance, will design a practice predicated on a certain number of players, he adds. “By not showing up, you can explain to your student that they’re interrupting the entire flow of the team.”
- Keep communicating. A child that groans about getting up early is one thing. A son or daughter that seems miserable at practice or even on game day is something else entirely. Ask questions, advise the experts. Try to determine what’s causing the unhappiness and if there’s anything the child can do to remedy the situation. “There will be plenty of times in life that your child won’t be happy doing something but that doesn’t mean they should quit,” says Benzel. “Learning how to work through the tough times is a valuable lesson in sports and life.”