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How Parents Can Support Their Chronically Ill Children in Sports

Living with a chronic illness is rarely ever easy, especially in childhood. Children with chronic illness are prone to experiencing many difficulties with their physical, emotional, and mental states while dealing with their sickness. Without proper measures, chronic illness can affect a child’s entire well-being, including their self-esteem, over time.

Sports are a big part of many children’s lives. It is where most children develop their core physical abilities and learn to socialize with their peers. Unfortunately, playing sports is not always easy for children with chronic illnesses—but that doesn’t mean it is completely off the table.

Here are some of the ways parents and guardians can help children pursue sports despite living with a chronic illness:

  1. Consult with a doctor

Your child’s primary care doctor will tell you if your child can play a certain sport or not, and they can also suggest more suitable sports if one is not a safe option for your child. During your child’s next check-up at the pediatric healthcare facility, bring up the topic of sports to the doctor. If your child already has a particular type of sport in mind, ask the doctor if it will be okay for them to partake in it. They will advise you if it is safe for your child or not to play that sport, and if there are certain risks, they will also give you a set of guidelines on how to avoid them.

For example, if your child has diabetes, the doctor will teach you how to manage their blood sugar before and after engaging in heavy physical activity. It is also possible that they will refer you to other specialists if needed, such as a nutritionist or a physical therapist.

  1. Explain restrictions, risks, and dangers to your child

Children won’t understand why they can’t do the things that they see other kids do unless you explain it clearly to them. Educate them about their condition—but do so without making it seem too negative. Explain the risks that they may face and how to avoid those risks at all costs, especially when they are playing sports–in a way that they can easily understand.

Furthermore, do not focus on what they cannot do. Instead, focus on what they can do. For example, if your child has asthma and cannot play sport with continuous activity, highlight the sports that they can do, such as baseball, gymnastics, and gentle cycling, among many others.

girls baseball team

  1. Talk to their coaches

If your child will partake in a sport, be it individual or team sports, it is imperative that you let the coach know of their condition. The coach will be responsible for your child during practices and games, which means that they must be aware of your child’s physical restrictions (as well as illness action plans) in order to keep them safe. Before you sign them up for a particular sport, it is also a good idea to sit down with the coach and talk about whether they can provide such a level of attention to your child or not.

However, keep in mind that coaches are not fully responsible for your child’s health and wellbeing. You must be present during practices and games as well so that you are ready to make interventions in case something happens. Although this may mean you cannot drop your child off to practice and go do something else, it is worth it if your child can do what they love and stay safe while doing it.

  1. Ease them into the sport gradually

Children who are living with chronic illness may not be able to engage in the sport completely at the beginning. For instance, they may need to limit practice times to half of what other kids do in order to avoid excess strain on their bodies. If you are not sure how to ease your child into the sport, talk to their doctor and determine what level of physical activity your child can handle.

At the same time, you must also explain to your child while they are starting slower than their peers. Help them understand that they will get to that point eventually, but for now, they must build strength before they can go all out as the other kids do.

A child with chronic illness may experience certain limitations when it comes to sports, but they are not enough to give up on the idea entirely. If your child wants to engage in sports, keep these tips in mind so that you can ensure their health and safety while keeping up with their peers.

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