BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Being traded in professional sports is often explained as simply “part of the business,” but it’s not that easy for children who idolize their local superstars to understand.
In Baltimore, Manny Machado is, of course, beloved by the Orioles faithful, but his youngest fans who regularly wear his jersey or cover their rooms with his posters and other memorabilia may face an emotional tidal wave now that he’s been traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
While some parents have posted videos online of their children breaking down when learning their favorite player has been traded, experts say it’s important for moms and dads to also help their children cope with their emotions. Nicole Glick, a Baltimore-based psychologist, offered WJZ.com some helpful tips for parents to use for breaking the news about Machado, or any other pro sports players they idolize, to their kids. Below is our Q&A with Glick:
WJZ: We often see viral videos of children breaking down in tears after their parents inform them their favorite athlete has been traded to another team. What’s the best way to break the news to a young child that their idol is no longer part of their favorite team?
Glick: Straightforward and honest. If you start with, “I have some sad news,” it sets the stage for a serious matter that allows them to express their disappointment, versus framing it in a positive light right off the bat: “Our favorite guy is moving to another city, it’s so great for him that he finally gets to be a part of a winning team!” After you’ve helped them come to terms with the reality of the situation, then you can help your child learn about the new city and support watching the athlete play from their new home town.
WJZ: What if the child likes to wear the player’s jersey/clothing or has other memorabilia in his or her room?
Glick: I don’t see an issue with this. Teaching a child that they can support an athlete regardless of what team they play for is a great lesson! Maybe their best friend will bat against him when pitching in the Little League World Series, and score the winning run — it’s a good lesson (that my own son had to learn!) that teaches how you can be disappointed for yourself, but happy for someone else at the same time!
WJZ: In Machado’s case, the Orioles of course are expected to make the move because he’s a superstar, and they have the worst record in baseball so far this season. How hard is it for a child to grasp the concept of “losing” or “being the worst,” or is that an area that parents should steer clear of?
Glick: Labeling in general leads to negativity and close-mindedness. Perhaps focusing on the opportunity for both the player and the home team would be better. For example, saying, “We get to watch Manny do well in a new city AND it’s a chance for the O’s to pick up some exciting young players. This will be fun to watch over the years!”
WJZ: Breaking out the cellphone and recording their reaction might earn parents some extra YouTube clicks, but how important is it for moms and dads to take the child’s response seriously? Is it best to resist the urge to film them?
Glick: Please film them! They will appreciate it when they are older (as will their future spouses)! Maybe make it a little incognito so they don’t feel pressured to have a reaction. Of course, still be empathic and reflect that you understand their disappointment and then present the positives discussed above. Of course, this advice is limited to this area: I don’t encourage parents to film their child being upset or hearing other sad or disappointing news!
WJZ: What can parents do to help their children cope if it’s clear the child is really taking the news hard in the days after the trade?
Glick: The child can write the player a letter wishing him or her luck — start to turn the focus on being a good fan who wants the best for a great athlete. Perhaps researching examples of other players who were traded and found success. Engaging them in an opportunity to learn about a new city and do some research on other players. Maybe your child loves animals. Research which Orioles have done charitable work with animals, or children, or something admirable off of the field to help them see that these guys are human beings who happen to be incredibly athletic. In a nutshell, continue to be this player’s biggest fan, but learn to love other players as well.
Nicole Glick, PsyD, is a licensed psychologist with expertise in child development and family systems. She is also the Executive & Clinical Director of Shalom Tikvah, Inc., a non-profit organization that supports Jewish children facing challenging life circumstances by providing multidisciplinary services to promote individual and family healing.