As we head into a new season, there is a lot of anticipation. But what happens when your child decides he or she really doesn’t want to ski?
It’s a ski parents nightmare. Perhaps you’ve had several seasons skiing with you child and then suddenly, he or she just isn’t interested.
Or maybe you’ve been eagerly anticipating the day when your child would start skiing, only to have your child refuse to go back after just one or two days.
The scenarios are many. So are the solutions.
A Cautionary Tale
When our oldest son was 3, he started skiing. We did everything wrong.
On his first day, we didn’t dress him warmly enough. He was freezing. All he wanted to do was go inside and get warm. All we wanted to do was to create the next Bode Miller. Our goals didn’t match. And he did not have fun.
Soon after that, armed with an XS down jacket, proper ski pants and synthetic long underwear, my husband loaded our son, their gear and clothing into the car. Arriving at the local resort, my husband realized he’d forgotten to pack our son’s ski pants.
Quickly they drove home, grabbed the pants and drove back to the resort.
Can you guess how much a seriously carsick child likes skiing? He didn’t ski again until the next season.
Set Your Child (and Yourself) Up For Success
Here are some suggestions to tip the odds of your child enjoying skiing in your favor.
Wear the Right Ski Clothing
Dress your child just as you dress for skiing and add one layer (say a fleece top). Children get colder more quickly than adults.
Here’s a short list of necessary clothing: one pair of synthetic or wool ski socks, synthetic or wool long underwear/base layers, a fleece, waterproof insulated pants and a jacket, waterproof mittens, a helmet and goggles.
Organize the Night Before
Get organized the night before and pack everything you need into separate bags, one per person. Then in the morning, grab and go. This helps prevent forgotten items and alleviates parental stress. It also speeds everyone out the door, which is a big advantage when skiing with kids.
Keep Your Expectations Realistic
If you’re skiing with a toddler, a 30-minute session may be all you get. A preschooler might be good for an hour or two with breaks for snacks and water. Every child is different, but if you limit your expectations and let your child set the pace, everyone can avoid frustration and fatigue.
Keep It Fun
Kevin Jordan is the Children’s Coordinator at Snowmass and a father of two young children. When he started his two-year-old son skiing, they didn’t really start with skiing. Instead, Kevin introduced the idea of “fun on snow.” This includes sledding, walking and being pulled across flat terrain on skis, sliding indoors and out on a snowboard and riding a strider bike fit with skis.
Even so, Kevin has dialed back his expectations.
“We have made attempts to go skiing or boarding and then all he wanted to do was eat mac and cheese. So we ate mac and cheese! The trick is not to force him into doing something he may not want to do.”
Discover What Motivates Your Child
While kids ages 5 or 6 and older may not be motivated by mac and cheese, they may be motivated by skiing with friends. This is especially true for older kids and teens.
When our older son resumed skiing at age 4, we went with friends. Suddenly he realized that “other kids ski, too!” It wasn’t just something the big people were forcing upon him. For him, this made it more fun.
Watch your child doing activities she enjoys and figure out how to transfer that enjoyment to skiing.
We used a combination of lessons and family skiing with both of our boys. Lessons taught them the fundamentals in a neutral environment.
PSIA (CSIA in Canada) instructors are specially trained to work with little kids, school age kids and younger teens. They know how to communicate with each age group, how to pace the lessons and how to keep them fun. If trying to teach your child to ski or skiing with your child is creating conflict, try a lesson.
Start in a Group
Group lessons less expensive and kids often enjoy learning with other kids. Your child will probably be more relaxed and have more fun with others his own age. You’ll be more relaxed and have more fun skiing on your own or with friends while your child is in a lesson.
Sometimes Private Lessons Work Better
That said, I know families where a child didn’t enjoy group lessons at all. These families let some time pass and then tried short private lessons (an hour or two at the most). In both instances, it helped their children gain confidence and overcome fear.
Reinforce The Fun
After a lesson, ask the instructor where you and your child should ski together and what you can reasonably expect. Avoid the “proud parent” temptation of pushing your child to ski when she is tired or on terrain that is too difficult for him. Pushing too hard, too fast can make a child fearful and take the joy out of skiing.
Your goal is to help your child progress in skill and confidence. Sometimes this means baby steps.
The Child Who Has Skied But Now Doesn’t Want To
This is a tough one. Here are some examples my friends have experienced, along with one that existed for a time in our family.
First, an 8-year-old who decided skiing wasn’t for him: he wanted to snowboard. When his skiing parents finally gave in and let him take snowboard lessons, he was all in. He still is.
Next, a 12-year-old who gave up on family skiing: she simply refused to go. She felt sick when skiing was suggested. She’d go to the mountain and sit in the lodge. After cajoling, bribery and threats failed, her parents gave up. Their daughter took several seasons off, until as a teen she had a boyfriend who skied. Suddenly, skiing was fun again.
Both of these examples teach us that ultimately we need to respect our children’s preferences. While we may like to think we can mold them to our desires, or that because they’re our offspring they’ll be just like us, they won’t.
Each child is different and the key to restoring and maintaining family skiing bliss is to listen to our kids.
When one of our sons was in middle school, he went through an ornery phase where he wanted control. We’d be dressed for skiing and about to leave the house, only to have him say, “I don’t feel like going today.” It made me want to scream, until I finally learned to give him some space.
Today, he never misses a ski day. And he even enjoys skiing with his family.
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