[...]she is isolated and alone. She has no time (and to some extent - little desire) to keep in touch with the girls from her previous school. She is ALWAYS training and none of them really skate. Furthermore, she wants NOTHING to do with the girls in her homeschooling group [...]This is a great question, L.L.K., and I don't think it's limited to figure skaters who are homeschooled or very competitive figure skaters. Ice Girl is in public school, skates a ton, and is sad that she has little time with friends. However, she doesn't want to give up the skating, either.
Despite the new lifestyle to which we have committed, she is a social butterfly [...] A life without friends, sleepovers and play-dates has left her feeling empty. There is a deep sadness over the fact that she has no close friends. She would love to build a "true-heart", as she calls it, friendship with another skater who understands the dedication and discipline necessary to skate competitively. Her rink (which we LOVE) is a serious training facility and does not provide a very social atmosphere. When you are there - YOU WORK.
She is a figure skater who is educated at home and needs to meet others like her [...] but how the @#$% do I find them?!?!?!?!
Here's what the Advisory Board had to say:
S.L., a veteran ice mom:
Lonely isn't just for homeschoolers. We never did after school activities or school sports due to skating right after school, then off ice and homework. One thing I committed to when she skated more was making sure I committed to getting her together with a school friend once a week (not easy, usually a weekend). Now mind you, we have plenty of social time at our rink and she has made just as good friends through skating now. Our rink is not as serious. She should try to find someone at her rink to connect with. Unfortunately it takes a while. They may need to commit to another activity/event or connect with a good "old friend" to find a social outlet. I would hate to encourage facebook, but maybe an old friend (or a new one) might connect with her there.PairsMom, the ice mom of the male half of the winning intermediate pairs team from the December 2009 Junior Nationals:
Xan, the ice mom of a former Jr. National competitor and current show skater. She's also an adult skater, a coach, and the blogger at Xanboni!
I think it is important for skaters to interact with their peers, both skaters and non-skaters. Yes, it is difficult and if you are making your training the priority, and schoolwork right up there too, there will not be an equal "balance" because there are only so many hours in a day. Maybe find other skaters that are close to her age at the rink and plan to go to lunch one day after practice, or maybe shopping or a movie, since they are expected to be working while they are at the rink. This could be the beginning of a "once a week" ritual that they look forward to. There is potential for a "mentoring" type friendship as well. Another suggestion, does she have a day off where she attends church or maybe the local gym for off ice work, pilates, ballet? This is another place to find friends. This may give her an opportunity to bond with other girls that are close to her age that have similar commitments to their own sport or activity. Several skaters at our rink enjoy traveling together to competitions, some are competing against each other and others are not, have to figure out what works best for your child.Hang in there! Be encouraged! Most teenagers are going to find their own way eventually.
I think that isolation is something that all high achieving kids experience. Their talent and focus sets them apart, and makes it difficult for them not only to connect with their peers, but making it a little scary for their peers to approach them. My daughter felt this very keenly, that the kids were a little afraid of being her friend; she had to really work at it, and in fact eventually we found a coach who was known for the wonderful camaraderie she created among her skaters.Sk8rmom aka "p," the ice mom of a male competitive skater (intermediate level)
The obvious first place to look is at the rink, especially among her coach's other skaters, in particular the competitive group. If she's only skating during school hours, talk to the coach about having one or two practices when she comes to the rink during the regular free style practice times. Sign her up for the ice show and a class (again, let the coach know why you are doing this). You can bring in friendships through bribes as well! If there's a special occasion coming up, like her birthday, bring a sheet cake and make sure everyone at the rink that day knows there's free cake! This works brilliantly. The first time someone does it, kids are a little shy; but if you can get all the moms to do it, believe me, kids coalesce around cake.
I have been in a similar situation as you, and known of others as well. Often skaters have a focus and maturity that are not common to their age peers. There are other kids around with the same type of focus (be it skating or music or something else), but in a homeschool situation, you might find them few and far between just because you have a smaller pool of people that your skater is exposed to daily. Eventually, your skater will find at least one or two really good friends, if not a multitude that she will enjoy spending time with, but I know it can be hard waiting for that to happen.This is the first year we started homeschooling our skater who is in middle school. We did not start homeschooling because of skating, but it has made practice time a little easier. One thing that we consciously do is to go in for the early morning sessions three times a week to be with the other high-level skaters who attend traditional school. His home rink is a training facility with no public skating, so the skaters are seriously working, similar to your situation. Even though we have more flexibility with schedule, the early-early mornings help to keep our skater in contact with the other kids his age and level, and I feel is very important both for social interaction as well as keeping a competitive edge (it's well worth getting up early for).
Another great thing is that if your skater goes away to other rinks, regional or national competitions, this is a wonderful time to meet new friends. With all the instant electronic communication, it makes it easy to keep in touch. These kids are all in the same boat, practicing hard, loving skating, not much time to do everything they want to do socially. If your skater is a social butterfly, it might not be hard for her to get to know some of the other competitors. These friendships are different than the local friendships, but it gives her a broader pool to choose from and more chances to click with someone. It also gives more incentive to qualify for the next year if you are going to see some friends :).
I talk to other moms at the rink a lot. If there are new kids, no matter what the age or level, I introduce my skater to them. It is very fulfilling for a teen to be a "mentor" or friend to a younger skater. This is sometimes a good way to cultivate very satisfying relationships if peers are few and far between. Little ones are so free with their love and adoration LOL.
Mainly keep the faith, be patient, I know it's heart breaking to see your child lonely, but with time, you both will figure out what works and she will find at least one special friend to spend time with.
Maybe this little story will give you some hope knowing that you are not alone and that in time things will work out... It's been almost a year since my skater's good buddy quit skating; they used to "play" and push each other during practices, and it's been a little hard. Well, today, a really cool thing that happened. For about a month or so, my skater has been skating a couple days a week at a public rink. He says hi to some of the kids, but usually just skates. There is a high-level skater that we see when we are there; she's amazing, and we always marvel at her jumps, etc. Today she started cheering my skater, copying the tricks and spins he was doing (of course doing it better :) and they had a nice exchange of "playing."
It was a really special thing to see; you could feel the change in energy at the rink when this give and take started happening. She even came up to me and started talking, just something little, but it broke the ice. I ended up talking to her mother and my skater had a blast. I am very hopeful that they can become friends even though they are at different skating level, ages and genders. It is just plain fun to have someone to "train" with.
Our Coach (and I say our, because I learn so much from him as well) says "even when skaters play, they are learning." And when in doubt about whether to let your skater to do something "teenagey" or go to sleep early, always remember that "these are kids that want to be skaters, not the other way around". Grab those opportunities.
Good luck to the both of you! I know that given a little time, things will be better. Just by being concerned, you will help to make it happen for your skater!
From Seasoneds8rmom: mom to a 12-year-old skater and an adult synchro skater
My daughter is an extreme social butterfly. It is very difficult for her to balance skating and her social life. We do the best we can. She still attends public school and this helps a lot because she can still stay connected to her friends at school while she is attending school. There have been many times however that she has wanted to participate in activities with her school friends and has had to miss out because she has skating conflicts. I know that it can be very difficult to juggle mainstream school and figure skating at the championship level but I think if you can try to work with the school to allow her to leave school early or come to school late it may be best for your daughter socially and emotionally to go back to mainstream school.
Often times young skaters think that homeschooling will be best for their competitive skating but then realize after they start homeschooling that it is not the right choice for them. I often would ask my daughter if she wanted to homeschool but she would defiantly say "NO" because she knew that it would interfer with her social connections.
FYI ...Another place where my daughter has close social connections is at church and getting involved in team skating. Being apart of a team can really help to bring skaters together socially and help them make life long friendships. I know many seriously competitive rinks do not agree that team skating helps an individual skater because the coaches feel that it takes too much time and money away for individual practice and coaching time, but you have to do what is best for your child's well being overall. You want your skater to be a happy in all aspects of their life not just skating. If they are not happy in all aspects of their life they will begin to resent skating and get burnt out and eventually quit.
Ice Mom, ice mom of Ice Girl, a 14-year-old skater
I tell you, Ice Girl has this same problem. She attends public school, but skates all the time. It's tough for her to balance school, homework, and skating. In fact, she just broke up with her boyfriend because she couldn't stand the ribbing that came with their Facebook-only relationship. Boyfriend didn't understand why she needed to be at the rink all the time.UPDATE FROM L.L.K.:
Part of what I do is have Ice Girl fill out the ice contract every month. She's in charge and she determines how much ice she wants. It doesn't mean that she has a social life, but it does mean that Ice Mom isn't forcing her on the ice and keeping her from her friends.
When Ice Girl first started figure skating, she had a hard time making friends. People can be slow to warm up and they see families come and go at the rink. Sometimes they wait and watch to see if the skater is serious or not. Now Ice Girl counts most of the skaters at the rink among her friends, but it took a while.
One of Ice Girl's competitive friends said, "I'm a figure skater. I don't have a social life." That's kind of sad, but it is a choice that kids make. There's definately a dip in events that Ice Girl can attend.
Today was a good day at practice! One of the other skaters who is a National Champion and trains with the same coach called Ice Princess over to introduce her to another skater (male pair skater who also trains with the same coach) who had been wanting to meet Princess! She was BEAMING and felt embraced for perhaps the first time by her peers. Mind you that Champion is 16 and Pairs Skater is nearly 20 - but they can be AWESOME mentor buddies to my sweet 10 year old!
Update: From reader Helicopter Mom, whose daughter has a best friend at the rink: We are lucky because one of my daughter's best friends is a skater too - they started at about the same time, go to the same school and skate some of the same freestyle sessions. On the flip side, I need to make sure there isn't too much socializing going on during practice time!
Update: From reader jumpingbeanmom: I go out of my way to make sure she can get to parties, have friends over etc. even if it is uber incovenient for me and the other family members because I know it is a huge sacrafice for her.
Update: From reader Jozet at Halushki: [...] keep Saturday afternoons/evenings and Sundays skate free [...] just knowing when friends can call her is a big help. Sometimes, kids would want to get together and call her last minute, and you know what happens after too many "I'm busy tonight" - kids stop calling. The sacred free time was a big help.
Update: From reader FrozenMom, who values her skater as a whole person: It is easy to get caught up in the competitive cycle and forget that they are children who need friends to share the successes and also the bad times, any athlete can suffer an injury which stops their competitive lifestyle for good or for years, I see it as part of my job to make sure that if that did happen it doesn't feel like life is over!
How about you? Is your Ice Girl or Ice Boy lonely? What have you done to balance skating, school, and a social life?
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