Wednesday, January 2, 2013

When Hockey is Not a Family Affair

The Balancing Act of Dealing with A Son or Daughter Who Doesn’t Play Hockey

With her hero as her motivator, as soon as my daughter could walk, she wanted to skate. She had been to every one of her brother's hockey games, sometimes with her nose pressed up against the Plexiglas, clapping her hands and yelling "oey" as soon as Joey stepped out onto the ice.

She couldn't wait for it to be her turn. It didn't take long for her wobbly little penguin-like struts to turn into quick, confident strides. She suited up at the tender age of 3 as a mini-mite and eight years later is still going strong chasing a puck around with hands firmly planted on a stick. We became one united happy, hockey family.

With hockey being such a high maintenance sport, demanding so much time and attention, I often wonder how other parents strike that happiness balance, with their children who don't play hockey. Sometimes affectionately called the rink rats, you spot them chasing each other around in the corner of the arena, or begrudgingly tagging along, forced to watch a sister or brother battle it out on the ice, when they openly admit they would rather be doing laps in a warm pool, or practicing scales on the piano.

Onondaga Thunder hockey dad and coach Marty Sicilia admits it's not easy, but he and his wife make every effort to give each of their children's interests an equal amount of attention. His daughter is a goalie. His son is an actor, singer and dancer. Marty grew up as a jock and his comfort zone is an ice rink. His son's theatrical world is foreign to him, but he takes the time to learn, "It's been eye opening for me and really pretty cool. I've been to the New York City ballet! Who could have imagined? As long as my kids are happy and healthy, I have nothing to complain about."

Sports has posed many challenges to the Coggiola family too.  Jill Coggiola and her husband John, a coach for the Lysander Pee Wee House team,  have been through the process of bringing along their three kids to events for many years with t-ball, baseball, and softball starting at age four, and then later with the addition of hockey.  " We also spend a lot of time at musical events as all our kids are equally involved in numerous ensembles as well. We approach all of these things as a family event. When our kids were younger that might have meant that we packed along a lot of snacks and books, a few extra balls and gloves, or in the case of hockey, a stick or two and a few balls. The kids learned to become comfortable in the different environments (be it a quiet concert hall, any number of baseball/softball fields, or the various rinks we've been to around the state). They learn what they should and shouldn't do depending on the venue and event. These are life skills that they'll take with them forever, " says Coggiola.

As for keeping the kids occupied during the long hockey season, Coggiola says, "With hockey, and depending on the rink, the kids often spend time either alone or with friends just playing with their stick and puck... it is amazing how long that can keep a child occupied! Otherwise, we sit with our kids and spend time teaching them to appreciate the game by learning how it works, and helping them get to know the players and their families. Our kids have learned to enjoy the sport of hockey tremendously, and to look forward to the social aspect of each game, as well. I have a feeling that because of the time so many of these kids spend together, from just watching an older brother or sister play, up until the time when they actually get to play themselves, that many of their hockey buddies will go on to become friends they'll keep for life."

Other hockey parents use instant gratification tactics to keep a kid from feeling tortured during tournaments and having meltdowns in rinks. They might buy them a new toy, a new app for their Smartphone or head to the nearest mall during an out of town trip. While that may keep the whining down, Licensed Psychologist Dr. Tanya Gesek from Syracuse, N.Y. cautions parents not to go too far to try to make things equal and give in too much to "make their kids happy."

"Fair is never really equal," according to Dr. Gesek, "Learning that lesson early is not a bad thing. Sibling rivalry can be healthy in moderation and helps kids develop very important coping skills to manage frustration and challenge as an adult. It is more than okay to allow our kids to deal with not being happy and a little bored once in a while without a lot of "stuff" or instant entertainment. In order to manage uncomfortable feelings, we have to feel them occasionally!"

Parents may end up feeling the pain, but these growing pains are all a part of raising good kids who learn how to respect each other and each other's interests.

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