As parents, 2020 brought out one of the toughest decisions for many of us: Do we focus on our child’s mental and emotional health or do we focus on their physical safety and well-being. Further, we’ve been inundated with statistics, facts (and perceived facts), theories and ideas throughout the year about what’s best for each family.
Our kids have had their worlds turned upside down. School – as they knew it – was non-existent for awhile. As a child, if you didn’t have friends outside of school, you may have been even further isolated as neighborhood barbecues and classmate’s birthday parties just weren’t happening.
So as we move into 2021, many of us aren’t finding the decisions much easier. Many of our new routines have become normal – but how can we keep our children safe from the unknown effects of a global pandemic, while still giving them the social interactions they deperately crave?
Here are a few ways to continue to keep your child engaged and socialized with peers (safely) in 2021:
- Create a cohort: In many parts of the world, health organizations have deemed that the safety social interaction is able to happen in small groups or cohorts. Small groups of friends who can commit to social gatherings with one another as their primary contacts have allowed for minimal spread and simplified contact tracing.
- Develop a routine: By developing a routine, children can learn what to expect throughout the week, and they can find social opportunities within that routine. Does your child attend a weekly tumbling class or youth group? By developing a weekly routine, you can add safety measures into that routine and trust that children are creatures of habit. Maybe your first stop every time you walk into the gym is to the bathroom for hand-washing, and your last stop before you leave the gym is the sanitizer station. By creating routines with your children, they can continue to have opportunities while maintaining safe measures even when you’re not there.
- Consider private or semi-private lessons: Private lessons for sports, tutoring and activities often occur when an instructor and a child can work one-on-one in the presence of immediate family only. Semi-private lessons are perfect for siblings or close friends and allow children at higher risk additional opportunities. Many places (like Twisters) are even able to offer virtual private lessons so your child can interact, socialize and work fun new skills from the safety and comfort of your home.
- Look at virtual options: There’s no doubt many children (and adults) are numb to the excitement of virtual learning. However, for many families, this might be the perfect option. Exercise classes, private lessons and even birthday parties can be conducted virtually, which allows families a break from the normal virtual classroom settings.
For some parents, the risk of anxiety and uncertainty in children and teens is a greater risk to mental health. For these parents, we recommend talking to your children about safe measures they can take while living as normally as possible. No doubt children who lived through 2020 will remember it, and it will inevitably shape them as adults. As we move into the new year, just know – there is no right answer for everyone, but there is a right answer for each family.
This blog was written by Danielle Johnston, owner of Twister Sports. Twisters is located in Warrensburg, MO (Central Missouri) and offers tumbling, gymnastics, cheerleading, dance, ninja warrior classes as well as batting cages, escape room, birthday parties, private lessons and special events.