Children of Divorce Benefit from Sports


  • Children of divorce can benefit from the normalcy that a sport can provide.
  • Children benefit developmentally from playing a sport.
  • Sports encourage peaceful co-existence between co-parents.

"Communication and civility can go a long way in establishing a level of normalcy for your child"

We have all been there. Standing in the backyard, you watch as the football heads toward you, thrown from your dad or mom. You reach out and attempt to catch it, but unfortunately, it bounces off of the tops of your fingertips. You watch as it falls to the green grass, as the delayed reaction of events has you ignoring the pain from your newly-jammed fingers.

Engaging in any sort of athletic activity, be it football, basketball, baseball, soccer, hockey, etc., with a parent is a special bonding moment between the two that creates memories that can last forever. For many parents, these activities are passed down from parent to child and mean a lot to both parties

However, during a divorce, custody and parenting time become issues that prevent much of the memories from being created, including that of playing sports together. According to Empowering Parents, sports, along with friends and school performance, become sources of strength during a child’s development, and when a parental divorce is announced, children experience insecurity regarding what the future holds. The uncertainty and unpredictability of outside factors negatively impact schedules and create problems for children who simply want to practice with their parent.

The benefits

Sports can be incredibly valuable to a child’s development. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, sports help children:

  • Learn to play fair
  • Learn to play as a member of a team
  • Get exercise
  • Develop physical skills
  • Make friends
  • Have fun
  • Improve self-esteem

Additional evidence from the Public Library of Science detailed how sports can act as a way for children to take initiative and to plan, carry through, and achieve a valued goal. This allows children to learn what practice and a good work ethic can accomplish, as they continue in their development.

The level of development encouraged by participating in sports is important for children to engage in. Playing sports helps children develop social skills while promoting the importance of health and exercise. This activity also allows parents to take an active participatory role in their child’s development, but for a child of divorce, that can be more challenging.

Co-parenting an athlete

For many parents, work schedules create a lot of chaos in scheduling time to help children practice. These schedules also interfere with attending games and being there when it matters. For children of divorce, attending games gets complicated when the other parent is taken into account. No matter which parent has custody of the child, the awkwardness and uneasiness of the situation is present.

It’s important to remember that you both are there to support your child. Communication and civility can go a long way in establishing a level of normalcy for your child. This can start with simple gestures that a child would appreciate, like dropping them off or picking them up from practice. Small beginnings can lend itself to becoming more comfortable as co-parents in your child’s life.

Sometimes, a parent might express disapproval in their child playing sports or playing a particular sport. Recently, pee-wee football, in particular, has become a hot button issue in society. Due to the concerns regarding concussions, the sport has faced harsh criticism that has pitted co-parents against one another. The research speaks for itself, but the decision still remains in the hands of the parents, not the child and not the child’s friends. This decision is important in creating a line of communication and encouraging co-existence as co-parents.

There are parents under the impression that youth sports fosters negative traits like the need to dominate their opponents on and off the field and bullying, and while research from Psychology Today says that that negative portrayal has some merit to it, it’s important for parents to understand that neither an entirely-positive or an entirely-negative portrayal of children playing sports is entirely accurate.

It’s more about what your individual child takes away from the experience of playing a sport. As a child of divorce, their life is going to have a lot places where activities are going to split their time, pulling them in various directions. Giving them an activity that will not only boost their academics and give them greater job prospects in the future than those who do not partake, but also give them a steady activity to do in both households will help them adjust to their new life and give them some semblance of normalcy.

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