Things are starting to edge slowly towards something that feels akin to a kind of normality. The kids have been back in school and the adult population is gradually receiving vaccinations. But beneath the tentative positivity, many of us are wondering what the long term effects will be, especially on our children.
Those that I’ve spoken to over the last twelve months, through various stages of lockdown, have been doing their best to cope. They have mostly risen to the challenge, feeling strong sense of responsibility to support their parents and families through desperate times. But like all of us, they’ve also had the odd meltdown.
The primary complaint has been that of missing their friends, but more surprisingly perhaps, they have moaned about the lack of opportunity for exercise. There were plenty of good intentions during the first lockdown, with whole families pulling together, pushing, bending and jumping together for Joe Wicks or other online classes - and many heroic families have stuck with it. However, as time has dragged on and finding ways to adjust to new variants in surviving the crisis has taken precedence, exercise has often fallen by the wayside.
Children are physical creatures and they communicate with their entire beings. Even our teenagers express their dissatisfaction with their whole bodies. For young people physicality is more than keeping fit; it’s essential for their overall wellbeing and ability to connect. Which is not to undermine the biological benefits. In pre-Covid times, almost eight in ten children failed to amass the hour a day of movement seen as vital to prime young cardiovascular systems and to lay down bone density. Over the last twelve months, things have got even worse.
We have a duty to stop this trend. Children learn most from the example of their parents and other influential adults. So we all need to move more - and hey, it’s good for us too. Didn’t you feel better during those weeks the family was exercising together? There’s more choices for us than ever before, and as the world begins to open up we can take advantage of even more of them.
It’s Spring! Let’s turn over a new leaf and get our children moving again. And I’m afraid the best way to do that (even if they’re teens, even if they moan) is for you to take the lead.
This Autumn, Tim Hollingsworth, the CEO of Sport England - who are tasked with increasing sport uptake in England - said that children should be taught “physical literacy” as a matter of course, much like being taught to read and write.
Despite allocating £300m of funding to grassroots sport each year, this organisation found that only 17% of children and young people met government targets for physical activity, with boys (20%) more active than girls (14%). Research shows a strong drop-off for girls, particularly when they hit their teens.
It’s impossible for us to understand - or to be more accurate, to remember - what it’s like for a baby or toddler trying to get to grips with conversation. Even if we decide to learn another tongue, we at least know what language is, we grasp the concept; our little ones are starting entirely from scratch. So how can we help them?
It's the time of year where we tend towards reflection on the past and looking to the future. Our children are not unaware of this too.
I have written pieces in the past about how the connection between our brain and our body is very much deeper than we might have imagined, and have counselled encouraging our children to consider themselves in a more holistic way.