by Brenda S Miles, PhD, C Psych
Clinical Paediatric Neuropsychologist
Last week we kicked off our new Possibilities Word of the Week Project. We’ll provide one word each week. You choose how to run with it. The goal is to inspire you; not to frustrate or overwhelm you. During this difficult time of COVID-19, we’re not asking—or even suggesting—that you structure every hour of every day to recreate your child’s school day or keep your children amused. If you’re trying your best to keep your family safe, then you are doing a tremendously good job. Think of our word of the week not as a mandate, but as a small dose of direction to help you navigate this challenging time.
Our new word is off-season.
COVID-19 has stopped visits to the gym. It has stopped professional athletes from entering stadiums and arenas. It has stopped your children from playing sports with teammates. Physical distancing makes team sports impossible—and games with groups of neighborhood friends are not advised, either.
For children and teens who thrive on physical activity—and that’s most of them!—these restrictions might feel unbearable. But here’s something to keep in mind. No professional athlete ever plays a team sport throughout the year. Professional athletes compete during hockey season, or baseball season, or basketball season, and then the season ends.
So how does this relate to you and your family?
Changing the way we look at a situation can make a big difference in our mood, motivation and actions. Reframing is the term psychologists use to describe this restructuring of thoughts and attitudes so we can adapt to change and cope effectively. So how can we reframe a COVID ban on sports in a way that is helpful? Use the word off-season—and use it often! For example, “Yes, I know not playing hockey is hard for you, but now it’s off-season!”
The word-off season might help nudge a reframe. Off-season is a time every athlete must endure—and now even more so, when COVID-19 has relegated even professional athletes to their homes. But the word “off-season” probably won’t be enough for your young athletes, so here’s a bonus word:
In the off-season, athletes don’t exercise to stay healthy. They train to become better athletes: a faster hockey player, a stronger basketball player, a better soccer player. The idea of training for something valued is probably more motivating than a request to exercise for good health.
While school is out, your stay-at-home athletes are off-season. Encourage them to train, so they’ll be faster and stronger when team sports resume after COVID-19 subsides. You’ll need to be creative. Maybe your athletes could create a Training Centre or Gym in your basement or garage, complete with stations where exercises or drills can happen. Some research into favourite athletes or professional teams might offer clues about a training regime in the off-season. Encourage your children to name the gym, create a logo, and print off schedules when classes happen. A stopwatch could help your athletes track their progress as they run through drills over time.
If you’re willing to pay an allowance, you now have Personal Trainers in-house to support your own fitness while community gyms remain closed. And who doesn’t need a good workout after sitting all day at a desk, staring into a computer? Payment may not be required if your kids derive joy from ordering you to hit the carpet and give them 20 (sit-ups, not dollars…)
Stay fit and have fun.
Until next week, revel in possibilities.
If your family has been inspired by our Possibilities Word of the Week, send a story or photograph to email@example.com. It might be featured in our next post!