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If you’re a parent who understands how important ongoing exercise is to your teenage daughter how do you feel when she tells you she’s giving up sport?

The football team, the dance classes, the swimming lessons, maybe even a gym membership, are of no interest anymore.

According to a recent report from Women in Sport only 14% of girls between 5-16 years get enough physical activity and that percentage drops even lower between 10-16 years.

The reasons seem to be threefold

  1. Their social activity along with homework take priority over exercise. Even though they know they should be doing more exercise they simply can’t get motivated. This is particularly true of girls when a friend leaves the group. They don’t want to stay without her.
  1. Some feel that if they’re not excellent they shouldn’t bother. Only the excellent succeed. This feeds into a lack of self-worth which can plague girls during puberty. They’re terrified to try something new in case they fail.
  1. That fear of failure fuels the embarrassment they feel about their bodies as they go through puberty. Fear that they may get their period in the middle of an exercise session is enough to put some girls off for good.

IF the opposite were true

  1. Your daughter would have enough confidence and self-belief to continue with a sport or activity that she likes, even if her friend leaves. It would be a case of so what? Each girl is an individual with her own interests.
  1. It wouldn’t matter if she were good or not. Unless she’s trying out for the Olympics she can continue to dance, continue to swim, or run, whatever makes her happy. Trying new things would be exciting and full of promise and nothing to fear.
  1. She would love her body no matter what. She would know that it’s a marvellous feat of engineering and the things it can do are nothing short of amazing. Getting a period during a class would be just something to deal with and then get on with enjoying herself.

How to support them

Typically, if a mother plays a sport the child is more interested so if exercise is something you’ve let slip, this is a good time to get back into it.

Compromise. Okay, she doesn’t have to go to an organised class, but she could go running with you a couple of times a week. Of course, you’ll have to keep motivated for both of you!

Walking to the shops and school (if practical), going for a hike at the weekends, practicing yoga together, swimming in the ocean will all foster a sense that exercise is not a chore.

Sport is not all about teams and competition. Show her that exercise is a living part of her life, and not simply another school lesson. 

If you need support, reach out to someone who can help. Teachers, therapists or programmes designed especially to help foster self-belief in children are all options. 

I can help with the latter. Just go to this page