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Boy Afraid He'll Get Hurt in Sports

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: Our nine-year-old son is a serious child who makes excellent grades and is very good at sports. He said, however, that he doesn't want to play football or baseball next year because he's afraid of getting hurt. He's overweight and very shy. I don't want to push him, but without sports I am afraid he'll become a couch potato and have no friends. His dad always helps coach his teams and he's quite disappointed that our son doesn't want to play. How should we handle this?

A: I suspect that there is more behind his reluctance to play than his fear of getting hurt. Find out if he's experienced an injury while playing baseball or football. Have a few discussions with him to find out what has motivated him to quit these sports. It's possible he may have been teased about his weight by his teammates. These are issues that need to be explored with love and sensitivity.

Don't make him feel like he's let you and your husband down by not playing these sports next year. He should also not be told that the main reason that you want him to play sports is because he needs to stay active because he is overweight. He should play sports because he enjoys the games and the company of his teammates. There are other avenues and activities besides organized sports where he can develop socially and make friends. If your boy is retreating from sports, this may be a signal that he is retreating from much more than these games. You need to find out what is really causing his fears. You and your husband might want to talk with a family therapist if you can't connect with your son regarding what is beneath his fear of getting hurt in these sports.

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.


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