When Your Heart Kid Plays Sports: 5 Tips To Ease Your Anxiety

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It’s natural for parents to have some level of worry about their child’s health, safety, and well-being, especially when sports are involved.

And when a child has a medical condition—like a heart defect—that level of concern might be compounded by worries about how physical activity could impact her health.

In some cases, you might even wonder if playing sports should be completely out of the question for your heart kid. However, while each child’s case is unique, in general, heart kids can play sports just like any other children. The important thing to keep in mind is safety.

So, how can you provide that safety—and your own peace of mind—when your heart kid plays sports? Here are 5 tips to get you started.

1. Talk To Your Child’s Doctor.

A discussion with the doctor can clarify any questions or concerns you might have before your child starts playing sports.

For instance, you might ask if there are certain sports and physical activities that are better suited to your child’s heart condition, and whether there are any extra precautions he should take before he hits the field. You can also clarify whether there are any activities that he should avoid, as well.

Having that reassurance from a medical expert who knows your child personally can go a long way toward easing your anxiety about letting him play sports.

2. Talk With The Coach.

If your child’s doctor recommends certain precautions on the playing field, ask her to write a note explaining these measures that you can share with the coach. And arrange a time to meet with the coach before the first practice so that you can discuss these steps together.

Having that open dialogue with the coach is another way to put your mind at ease that your child is in good hands. It might also help to be honest with the coach about your own anxieties surrounding this issue, though you certainly don’t have to discuss them if you don’t feel comfortable doing so.

Regardless, be clear with the coach about what is and is not okay for your child to do—as well as signs of possible issues—like overexertion—for him to be on the lookout for.

3. Make Sure Your Heart Kid Has The Right Gear To Play Sports Safely.

This might sound obvious, but making sure your child has the proper equipment can also help you feel reassured while she’s on the field.

If this is her first time playing a particular sport, you might want to ask some of her seasoned teammates’ parents if there are any essentials they recommend. For instance, should your child’s batting helmet have a face visor? Should she wear a mouthguard, too?

Even if these items aren’t necessarily required for her to play, they can be easy ways to make the experience safer for her, as a player—and more enjoyable for you, as a parent and spectator.

4. Don’t Forget About Sports And Exercise Basics, Too.

Oftentimes, simple but important health and safety measures get unintentionally pushed to the side in the heat of the moment during an important game.

But taking those few extra minutes to apply sunscreen, stay hydrated, and warm up or cool down is very important for heart kids. Make sure your kiddo—and his coach—know that these are necessary steps that you expect your child to take during both practices and games.

5. Be Your Heart Kid’s Biggest Cheerleader.

Let your child know how proud you are by cheering her on. Make sure she’s okay with your sideline activities though—you don’t want to embarrass her, either.

As nervous as you might be about your heart kid playing sports, remember that this is something she wants to do. Letting her know you are happy that she’s happy can boost her confidence on the field. And just taking the time to enjoy her happiness can give you peace of mind as well.

Is your heart kiddo an aspiring athlete? If so, how did you manage any fears or anxiety you had about her being on the playing field? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Sean Akers

Hi, I’m Dr. Sean Akers, and I’m a Licensed Clinical Pediatric Psychologist at Children’s Hospital & Medical Center in Omaha. I serve as the primary psychologist for the heart transplant team as well as the coordinator of the Consult Liaison Service. My job is to provide heart kids and their families with support throughout their journey.

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