By Margie Sugarman
Margie Sugarman is a leading board-certified psychotherapist and sports consultant based in New York. Margie’s desire is to enhance performance through the connection between the mind and body, and her current client list includes Olympic, professional and amateur athletes across the country. Her experience employing various therapeutic modalities has helped equestrians win classics, junior medals and Grand Prix. Do you have a question you want Margie to answer? Send questions to email@example.com.
As a parent of a young rider, I want what’s best for my child and what makes her happy. Therefore, once she took an interest in riding, I immediately became very involved. My daughter has been riding for a few years and she has been dedicating all of her time to riding: before school, after school, over the weekends, etc. I want her to be happy, but I feel she’s starting to drift from her group of friends because they don’t ride. I don’t want to tell her to stop riding, but I also want her to recognize that she’s alienating herself from her friends. I know I can be a paranoid parent, but do you have any advice as to how I can approach this situation without overstepping?
While I understand that every parent wants what’s best for their child, it’s sometimes best to monitor from the side, despite your natural motherly instincts to step in and alter the situation.
Friendships are the essence of childhood and people are friends because there’s something that draws them together – usually an interest of some sort. Since your daughter has invested so much time in the equestrian world, she’ll naturally feel comfortable with and befriend those who share her interests.
It’s important to remember that at this time in her life, this is what she wants and loves. Not all interests stay in our lives forever. As we grow, either our interests change or they grow with us. There are a lot of valuable lessons that come from riding and being amongst a close-knit group of (rider) friends:
Your daughter can:
- Meet new friends from other towns and states, depending upon her involvement in the sport
- Develop independent thinking, improved mind-body communication and physical coordination
- Enhance her ability to communicate and interact with people of all ages
- Develop a deeper respect for others/elders — whether they be trainers, grooms or judges
Lastly, your daughter has an interest that teaches and supports healthy values:
- Responsibility: Caring for a horse each and every day. The animal depends on her — despite her possibly feeling tired or having other commitments.
- Caring: The bond between horse and rider is deep and unique. When you love an animal, you hurt when they hurt as well as feel the excitement when a goal is met. Your daughter’s horse is a best friend and as with girlfriends, feelings are shared.
- Self-discipline: From the care of the animal to the commitment of riding and practicing.
- Maturity: Being able to remain humble and driven, maintain patience and be an active team member.
Involvement with horses and riding teach a young person a tremendous amount. It focuses one’s interest in a healthy place as opposed to some of the more negative teenage activities. I don’t see you as a paranoid parent. Many of the aforementioned are qualities and attributes any parent would want for their child. Support the environment that offers these lessons. Your daughter will ultimately choose her own path lined with friends — horsey or non-horsey. Your support, either way, is an important element in her personal development.