Well, I’ve got two very scary words for you – triathlon and teenager. Put them together and you really need to step up your game. Once your kids reach their teenage years, they are really starting to establish lives of their own. With their busy schedules, your training, and the craziness of life, it is less about finding time to train than it is about finding time together. We know many triathlon families in this situation and it goes one of three ways.
- Everyone goes off in their own direction and the family spends less time together.
- The kids get into triathlons and it becomes a family affair.
- Schedules and expectations change to find a way to fit in family time.
For the first situation, we get it and have been there. The kids get busy, are off with their friends, AND ARE DRIVING, which means for the triathlete and spouse, there is a breakthrough called time together. Yes, this is a real phenomenon. Carpool days are dwindling down, you are not needed to entertain the kids, the triathlete often is entering their prime and can get good solid workouts in, and the spouse has less responsibility to keep the kids entertained.
But, remember these are still special and important years in your child’s life and yes, they are still and always will be your children. We advise you to take full advantage and find time to spend with your teen and stay active in their lives. They are now old enough to be a part of the planning process for your triathlon schedule and you can plan races around their spring breaks and go cool places. Now, they may not be too thrilled about still coming to races, but we encourage you to encourage them so you both don’t later regret missing out on this time.
For the family that plays together and one or more of your kids picks up the triathlon bug, good for you, I hope! But, it doesn’t need to be triathlons; it could be swimming, biking, and/or running. This is like built in family time. It allows you to train together and bond. We have family friends who have three children and each child has picked up a different discipline of the triathlon. The parents are both triathletes, so they get parent/kid time together for each child. The relationships that they share are remarkable.
Neither of my children are triathletes, but they are both athletes as you most likely know. When we are all together, we try to adjust our workouts so we can be active together. Yoga, hiking, and kayaking are our favorites to do together.
When we visit the twins, we are able to join in with them. For example, last dive season, we went to visit our son and he had dive practice. Well, my David is not a diver, but the coach opened a lane for him to get his swim workout in and he was able to be in the water with the rest of the team during their swim practice. Take advantage of these times.
Finally, there are the families that adjust their schedules and expeditions to make it work. With the kids changing schedules and demands of school, we, as well as many families we know, adjusted their traditional “family time”. We created family sacred times. Instead of stressing out getting everyone around the dinner table and in and out of the house for study groups, practices, and rehearsals, we simply switched the time together to breakfast.
Breakfast is when we sat together at the dining room table. It required my husband and myself to get up a bit earlier, get our workouts in, and that was just fine so we could share the time as a family. The other sacred times we had was a late Saturday lunch and often a hike, exploring a new area or hanging out together. Finally, we shared dim sum on Sundays.
The harder part of this adjustment was to change our expectations. Yes, it was sacred time, but things come up and that had to be okay. In order for no one to feel badly about this and work together for what we all felt was important, we had to have great communication. I do believe that was the key to our success as a family unit.
So, here are my top tips for any triathlon family with teenagers:
- Make sure you are always supporting each other. No matter what, attend each other’s races, shows, matches, meets, or whatever else as a family or at least have family representation there.
- Make sure that no matter what each member of the family does, whether an instrument, theater, or sport, that it is also mutually respected and appreciated.
- Remember family comes first, NOT TRIATHLONS.
- Play together. Get out a board game, lace up those hiking shoes, or put on a pair of funky bowling shoes and have some fun. That’s the key!
- Do not leave the non-triathlon parent out. Make sure they are included in the family time. Although for the majority of us, we are exhausted and would love a break during this, don’t do it. You will regret it later.
- If you have to make a change to your planned family time, reschedule it right there, so it doesn’t fall by the wayside, which it will do.
- Set up a group text with your teens for the family. We have found it is a great way to support each other and all stay on the same page.
- Respect your teens’ time. This is so hard, because we move from us managing their time and schedules, to them taking the responsibility. We set them up for success with this by assisting in setting up what worked for them. We also made sure we not only up gave them verbal reminders, but sent little texts like, “hope gymnastics practice was great, see you at noon for Dim Sum”.
- Continue, as when they were young, to create a space in your training area they can come and sit, visit, talk, or just be there with you.
Teens are becoming young adults and it is a very important time to stay active in their lives. Too many families start to grow apart with this new independence for both the teens and parents. Don’t do it! Absorb every moment, because soon they will be off and the time will be lost forever.