The battle against the spread of COVID-19 requires voluntary or forced confinements which radically change our way of life with our children and adolescents.
Being teachers of physical education and health (EPS) and responsible for the health education courses offered at UQAM to future teachers, we offer here some advice to families living in confinement, so that parents and children have a life as healthy and active as possible.
First of all, always keep this formula in mind: move – eat well – sleep – relax – manage your screens – have fun.
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Continue to be active
Adopting or maintaining the practice of physical activities is essential, even in a situation of confinement. Children and adolescents must move at least 60 minutes a day according to the recommendations of the World Health Organization.
It can be intense moments of activity such as simple games (playing hide-and-seek, making a cabin in the basement, inventing a course in the alley, throwing the basketball, hitting a soccer ball, playing streetball hockey, dancing, biking or skateboarding).
You can also ask your child to explain the latest game learned at recess or in his physical education and health class and try it with him. The possibilities are limitless!
Take active breaks …
You can also alternate with activities involving fine motor skills such as writing, painting, drawing, modeling, sewing or tinkering. These activities should be interspersed with breaks and ideally be done in several short periods of 5 to 15 minutes rather than in a single large period of 60 minutes. The important thing is that the activities are diversified and regular.
Other options exist to get young people moving, such as walking and household chores. There are also other strategies such as active group breaks using Go Noodle, Wixx and H2GO online resources for example.
Be careful to choose your breaks, some are more useful or even fun. Finally, free play outside, in a backyard, a garden or in the street, without contact with others, is another possibility.
Several online resources also exist for parents, such as yoga, pilates, CrossFit and the training circuit at home.
Eat healthy and balanced
With the situation of confinement comes boredom, withdrawal, and therefore a form of carelessness. This is an excellent opportunity to cook with the family and learn to eat healthy with our children by offering them recipes adapted to their abilities and needs. You can plan a balanced menu in advance by planning the necessary groceries according to your budget.
For parents who like to experiment, this is an opportunity to test new recipes or to dust off the old recipe books lying around in our library. This is also an opportunity to educate children about the importance of gardening, food waste, recycling and composting.
As the food guide points out, you have to encourage diversity, reasonable portions, meals in good company and the pleasure of enjoying your food. In this period of routine confinement and upheavals, the temptation can be great to lose one’s good habits.
Maintain a good sleep
The current crisis requires a major change of pace. For the well-being of everyone (parents and children), it is important to get enough sleep.
A tired child experiences stress and will be more irritable, which can affect the whole family.
Thus, it is better to keep the usual bedtime and waking hours, favoring calm activities (without screens) just before bedtime.
Reduce sources of stress
Isolation is a difficult time to pass because we need to interact with others. It is important to find other ways to do this, such as organizing a meal for friends using Skype, FaceTime or Messenger, phoning relatives or writing messages to them.
It is also possible that at times, your children may experience stress, boredom or mental exhaustion linked to the situation of confinement. It is important to give them rest periods, alone and in peace.
Pay attention to the well-being of all family members. Organize breaks during the day when you notice that the motivation is no longer there (change task after 30 or 45 minutes) or that the screen time has lasted long enough. Read something other than the news and allow everyone to quietly retire to a room in the house when necessary.
Manage screen time well
Exposing young people to screens carries the risk of changing their behavior and can have a harmful effect on sleep.
In this regard, studies show that the higher the time spent on the screen, the higher the risk of suffering from depressive symptoms, anxiety and obesity in the longer term.
For good screen management, the educator Philippe Meirieu suggests adopting the following formula: CHOOSE BEFORE – WATCH WITH – TALK AFTER.
We have to change the relationship between our children with screens. First, help them choose the content and screen formats, watch videos or play games with them and then share what was viewed.
This support allows children to distance themselves from the content consumed, to criticize and reflect on it. Finally, we need to manage the “available brain time” for learning so that children can continue to educate themselves and not just be entertained.
Learning through play
Young people learn above all and above all through play. It can be free (playing outside), supervised (board games), directed (play under the supervision of the parent), but above all, it must keep their motivation and confidence.
A multitude of games and activities allow you to consolidate what you have learned at school. Cooking, DIY and physical activity are extraordinary opportunities to confront problems, find ways to solve them and wonder about the knowledge to be mobilized.
It is a good time to develop children’s curiosity and independence, which will allow them to take advantage of the lessons, even more, when school resumes. The most important thing is that children grow up playing and being active.
If the situation becomes difficult, your days seem long and complicated, and you find that your children need special support, do not remain isolated. Consult the blogs, interact virtually with people living in a situation similar to yours. There are a variety of resources to support the physical and mental well-being of your family unit during this time of crisis.