It seems that having your child play a sport has more benefits than you know. Sure, playing a sport and being involved in a team helps your child stay healthy and active, learn how to work as part of a team and meet new kids, and give them a sense of accomplishment with they learn a new technique while helping them develop leadership skills. A new study is showing that playing sports at a young age can also help your child emotionally too.
The study, published in Pediatric Research, shows that children who participate in sports when they're younger are less likely to experience emotional issues by the time they reach the age of 12. It seems that the mental health benefits of playing a sport are just as big as the physical health benefits. Researchers out of the Université de Montréal found that children who play sports at a young age have fewer behavioral problems as they get older and suffer less from anxiety and stress and are more comfortable in social situations.
"We followed a birth cohort over time to examine whether consistent participation in organized sport from ages 6 to 10 would minimize risks associated with emotional distress, anxiety, shyness, social withdrawal at age 12," said Frédéric N. Brière, an Université de Montréal professor of psycho-education who led the study. "Our goal was to test this question as critically as possible by eliminating pre-existing child or family conditions that could offer an alternative explanation."
Researchers looked at children born between 1997 or 1998 who were already a part of a different study. Between the ages of 6 and 10 the mothers of the children in the study were asked to list whether they were involved with sports, and at the age of 12 teachers reported on their emotional well being, including if they experienced emotional distress, were anxious or shy and whether they had trouble in social situations.
"The results revealed that children who participated consistently from ages 6 to 10 showed fewer instances of those factors at age 12 than their counterparts who did not engage in physical activity in a consistent way," said Brière. "We found these benefits above and beyond pre-existing individual and family characteristics."
Basically, having your child participate in sports won't only benefit them physically, but mentally too. "Getting kids actively involved in organized sport seems to promote global development. This involvement appears to be good on a socio-emotional level and not just because of physical benefits," Brière stated. "Being less emotionally distressed at the juncture between elementary and high school is a priceless benefit for children, as they are about to enter a much larger universe with bigger academic challenges. This research supports current parental guidelines promoting children's involvement in physical activity."
Even better is it doesn't seem to matter what level your child plays at, just that they're participating in a sport. For many families paying for extracurricular sports can be financially difficult, so knowing you can enroll your child in local and recreational teams that are more affordable can still give your children a fun opportunity to be part of a team and will benefit them in the long run.