Mother Crushers

Adventures in Climbing and Parenthood

My name is Kristen, I started climbing when my now 10-year-old daughter took her first climbing class (4 years ago). She instantly fell in love with the sport. As a parent, I wanted to support my daughter, so my husband and I took the Rope 101 class and our adventure continues. I have two youth climbers, my daughter is 10 and my son is 8, both are on Team Vertical’s youngest group of competitive gym rats.

 As I sat down to write about the mental and emotional benefits to climbing, I realized I knew what I wanted my children to gain from the sport, but what benefits do the children see or feel? So, I decided to ask my 8 and 10-year-old separately. Of course, I got some interesting responses, some I had hoped for, some were realistic, and others didn’t quite connect. Here’s what we came up with, it was truly a combined effort and I will make sure I note what the kids had to share.

Mental and Emotional Benefits of Kids Climbing 

Number 1- Critical Thinking

Of course the kids didn’t use that word, but as we talked about problem solving, making good decisions on the wall or when working through a problem/route, understanding why you fell or why a move didn’t work, being able to change their thinking and their approach towards a hard move, I felt all of this goes hand-in-hand with critical thinking skills. As a parent and a teacher, I believe these are life-long skills and being able to explore these skills through climbing has enriched how my children think both on and off the wall.

Number 2- The Importance of Goals

Both of my kids had a lot to say about setting goals, reaching goals, struggling to achieve a goal, and dealing with the disappointment of not meeting a goal. For my oldest, this has been a huge skill she has learned about through climbing. She has learned about setting appropriate and manageable goals for herself, along with dealing with the disappointment of not meeting a goal. The emotional and mental piece of dealing with a huge let down is another life-long skill that she has never experienced at school and through climbing there have been endless conversations about how to deal with these feelings.  She has also learned that everybody has bad days and being able to bounce back and move on is another skill climbing has taught her. My son shared a lot about having a positive mindset when working towards your goals and the excitement/motivation he feels about working towards a goal.

Number 3- Confidence

“Let’s hear it for girl power,” words from my 10-year-old daughter. Climbing has given her incredible confidence. She feels strong, she thinks muscle is healthy and good for your body, she feels tough, and she feels CONFIDENT. Climbing has given her a place she belongs, where she feels accepted and can be herself, a true sense of community and support. Both of my kids view the gym as their second home. I am positive they treat the training center like they treat their bedrooms, clothing and gear everywhere. Climbing has taught my kids to believe in themselves, take risks, deal with failures and to never give up. They are proud of their climbing skills and want to share this love and the confidence it gives them with others they interact with on a daily basis. Every parent wants their children to be confident and this is by far the most powerful skill my own kids have gained emotionally and mentally from rock climbing.

Number 4- Perseverance

Not only does climbing require strength and determination, but it teaches children mental toughness. It teaches them to not give up, continue to try, face your fears, work through a problem, work through a negative experience, and continue to focus on a positive or desired outcome. When talking about this benefit, both kids had a lot to say about not giving up on a “project” at the gym or a route they have tried over and over again. They both expressed frustration when you can’t get a move, but climbing has taught them to step back, think, and reflect on what works and what doesn’t work, get “beta” or advice from a peer, and to try something new. All of this persistence and grit is worth the end result of finishing a problem/route or getting one move closer. There are the hard times when you never finish the problem/route you are working on, but that too teaches a degree of mental toughness.

Number 5- Teamwork

Whether you are part of the team, taking classes, or climbing as a family there is always a component of teamwork that develops while climbing. It is a community that is respectful, positive, encouraging, and accepting. Even though you are climbing on the wall alone, there is a team that provides support, advice, and leadership skills. You form climbing partnerships or buddies you like to “project” with as much as you can. Climbing has taught my kids how to treat others, form positive relationships, care for others, and show support when others are feeling defeated. It has given them better communication skills and social skills and helped them form valuable friendships.  The way I see it, being part of a team or a community like Vertical Adventures has given our family, especially the kids, new friendships that will last a life-time.

Overall, rock climbing is an amazing sport both for exercise and for the development of beneficial mental and emotional skills in kids of all ages. I love that the kids continue to learn and reflect on the benefits I have mentioned above and I know these are skills they will apply in all aspects of their lives.