Dear Broken Arm Broken Heart,
The best way to deal with a nephew who has been taken out of the game due to an injury is to break the recuperation time into three phases.
Phase 1: The first two weeks after the injury
Your nephew needs social support from you, his parents, coaches and peers.
For example, in the first two weeks post-injury, you can provide a distraction by doing some fun baseball related activities, such as taking him to a baseball game, a baseball-themed movie, a sports memorabilia museum or a sports tradeshow.
The coach can keep your nephew involved with the team by assigning him a new role, such as team manager, sports reporter for the local newspaper or team photographer. This way he still maintains his commitment to the team, gets to hang out with his friends and feels useful to the team.
The team can make a card for him or all sign his cast. It can be simple, but an outreach from the team can do wonders for his self-esteem and self-confidence.
Everyone on his support team can be rest assured that a temporary loss of self-esteem and self-confidence can be accepted as a "normal" part of dealing with the injury the first two weeks post-injury.
His parents can provide emotional support at home. And, they can be particularly good listeners at this time and provide relief that his arm will heal and that he will be back playing baseball.
Phase 2: After the first two weeks, post-injury
Make sure your nephew continues to be active. Encourage him to throw with the healthy arm, ride a stationary bicycle, play outdoors with friends, enjoy fun activities such as foursquare, juggling a soccer ball or kicking a soccer ball against a wall.
Adjustment can also be eased by helping him transition to other interests. These could be sport or non-sport related -- singing, performing in a play, community service, a science project, drawing or painting.
Phase 3: If the young athlete is still dealing with the loss and is not interested in other activities
Counseling can help deal with the temporary loss and emotional trauma suffered by the young athlete. Counseling will have both short and long-term benefits by helping to keep his life in balance and develop other interests and hobbies. In the short-term, he will deal with the sense of loss and in the long-term, he will be more well-rounded and not wrapped up in a one-dimensional athlete identity existence.
This young man will learn from this experience. At a young age, he will gain coping mechanisms on how to deal with an injury, a deeper sense of resilience and a more well-rounded perception of self.
Dr. Kathryn C. Wilder is a youth sports psychology and performance consultant. You can find her on Twitter at @kcwilder