How Donna Kelce encourages her NFL sons the night before a big game

If you avoid putting undue pressure on your kids, you can help them build the confidence they need to become successful adults.

Donna Kelce knows that better than most. She’s the mother of two NFL champions, and her son Travis will play in the Super Bowl on Sunday as his Kansas City Chiefs vie for another title. No matter how commonplace the Super Bowl becomes for her family, Kelce says she still tries to offer her sons encouragement to help them get in a good mindset before they take the field.

Her strategy: Keep it loose and remind them how far they’ve come.

“The night before [a big game], I will text my sons and will give them a little encouragement, send them a little funny picture of when they were younger, depending on what team they’re playing with or whatever,” Kelce told TODAY on Wednesday. “I go back and get a little nostalgia.”

A little levity can go a long way in helping to reduce anxiety and promote relaxation, research shows. It’s also an effective way for parents to help their kids stay calm if they’re stressed ahead of a test or competition, according to a 2022 study by psychologists at the University of California, Davis.

Kids of any age whose parents push them too hard experience higher rates of anxiety and depression, which can ultimately make it harder for them to succeed as adults, researcher and author Jennifer Breheny Wallace told CNBC Make It last year.

“I try not to bother them on game day because they’re a little busy and I don’t think I’m going to get through,” said Kelce.

For what it’s worth, Travis recently claimed he has “no jitters” ahead of his third Super Bowl appearance, and his first since he started publicly dating pop star Taylor Swift.

Kelce’s one rule for her sons

Outside of her texts, Kelce often shares throwback photos of her two sons on social media. The brothers grew up in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, where playing a variety of sports before both starring for the University of Cincinnati’s football team on their way to the National Football League.

Last year, Kelce said she had one rule for her sons when they were growing up: No quitting. If they signed up to play a sport, or for another group activity, they had to finish it, even if didn’t meet their expectations.

“‘Once it’s over, if you don’t like that team, or if you don’t like that sport, you don’t have to play anymore,'” Kelce told parenting website SheKnow. “‘But your team depends on you. You have to show up on time, every day, whether you want to or not.'”

“Mama Kelce,” as she’s often referred to affectionately, became something of a fan favorite when her sons’ teams faced off for last year’s championship. This year, she’s looking forward to a lighter schedule and not having to worry about consoling one son while celebrating with the other, she said on Thursday.

“Last year, I was pretty much working the whole time. But it was a blast,” she said.

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