Get the latest summer forecast and weather knowledge from Cindy Day
Want to become a member? Check out the benefits here.
Thanking our essential workers
SaltWire's cartoonists bring heart and humour to the news.
Visit SaltWire.com for more of the stories you want.
SaltWire Selects: Stories worth sharing today
What you need to know about COVID-19: September 17, 2020
For Steve Letner of New Haven, P.E.I., his family’s lives are pretty much back to normal, although things are a bit different now.
The COVID-19 shutdown ground all activities for youth to a halt. With the low number of cases on the East Coast, though, activities have slowly started to start up again, but in modified ways.
This is typically the time of year when parents start thinking about registering their children for fall activities. But with the way the world has changed over the past few months, many parents are contemplating not only what activities to sign up for, but how many.
For Letner’s children, aged nine and 10, they are back to doing baseball, flag football and horseback riding. Protocols within these activities have changed, however. For example, football no longer has huddles, there are a limited number of kids in the dugout for baseball, masks are required for riding, and there are no more large groups coming to watch the games, he says.
When it came to signing his kids back up for activities, Letner said he had no fears or worries.
“As a parent, I welcomed the break over the last few months, but it was hard on the kids,” he says. “They missed their friends and their sports.”
Letner’s children were very exited to be able to play again and were willing to accept the differences. The new rules were not “bad enough” to make them not want to participate, he says.
Other parents like Nichole Piercey, in St. John’s, N.L., agree. She will be placing her kids in their activities this fall, saying she wants to try to make them feel as normal as she can.
“We have to try to live with COVID-19, and I can’t see it leaving us anytime soon,” she says.
Melissa Fitzpatrick, from Brooklyn, N.S., currently has her daughter signed up for taekwondo, and says the studio is doing a great job following health guidelines and social distancing.
“So, for right now, in our small community, I am OK with it,” says Fitzpatrick. “But if the province begins to have big increases in cases, I may keep her home.”
Amy Moores of Nine Mile Creek, P.E.I. is of a similar mindset. She plans to sign her children up for recreation activities, but will make decisions on which ones she’s willing to have them participate in.
“We will go back, but not to anything where we’d have to make a large investment in gear, in case everything gets shut down again,” says Moores.
Other parents, like Sarah Jane Harvey Hart of Windsor Forks, N.S. are in no rush to sign their children back up for activities.
“It was sort of nice when things stopped and we didn't have to go anywhere after we both got home from work,” she says. “We are looking forward to starting again but don't want to rush it.”
Hart says her children will probably go back to their regular activities eventually but is planning on starting up slowly. She’s not in any hurry.
Mount Pearl, N.L. resident Sara Hawkins, however, is conflicted. She says her children, aged eight and five, are craving interaction with other kids and they all miss the sports and activities they were involved in. But, she’s a bit worried about how it will look.
“The kids are tired of social distancing and want to play like before. I know that that can't happen yet, but I also look at the fact our numbers are low, they have been travel related and, if people just stay home when they are sick, and wash hands, our risks are low,” she says.
In the end, Hawkins said her family decided to cut back on activities whenever things start up again. That’s partially because, she says, her family realized they liked the slowdown. Instead of spending time doing activities, they will spend more time with their kids going for walks, hikes, and drives. She says her children like the unstructured time.
“During this time, they learned how to get along with each other and their imagination came back full force with the less structure,” says Hawkins.
Valine Kavanagh of Cape Broyle, N.L. is the same. She says her kids were spending five to six days a week at extracurricular activities prior to COVID-19, and now they are going to max out at two to three days.
“Both the kids and I realized how crazy our schedule was and how much we missed evenings at home,” says Kavanagh.
Take things slowly
Sisters Lisa and Laurie Pinhorn, holistic family interventionists in St. John’s, N.L. and co-owners of Feeding Futures, an organization dedicated to cultivating calm, connected and compassionate environments for children, caution that September 2020 is not a time to rush into anything.
“If there was ever a time to move slowly, put your parenting observation glasses on, and keep mental health a priority - this is it,” says Pinhorn.
Instead, they are reminding parents that each year, transitioning back to school can be tricky. That’s even truer this year, when there are many more stressors.
“Understandably, we want a 'back to normal life', but we need to be realistic about how stressful this school year will be for children. Some children will only have enough energy for school and will require 100 per cent downtime after school to recharge their social and learning batteries. Others might be able to do some extracurricular activities, while others will struggle,” says Pinhorn. “Understanding your child's reactions to stressors and making a child-focused plan is super important.”
Being flexible is always important, says Pinhorn, especially now. It’s possible a child could be excited about an after-school activity and it becomes too much for them.
“We need to be open to making changes in schedule,” Pinhorn says. “Reading signs of stress is just one part of any back to school plan; how we make necessary adjustments will help us keep our child's mental health front of mind.”
One way to help children who indeed need social time with peers, says Pinhorn, is to have some small group ‘bubble safe' and 'COVID-19 safe' gatherings in a park or playground, rather than large, overstimulating gatherings.
If you want to add things to children's lives in September, think about activities that will calm nervous systems, suggests Pinhorn, like time in nature, walking, swimming, yoga, singing, mindfulness, cooking, or gardening. And if you add lots of social and connected time within these activities, you will be one step closer to creating an emotionally safe haven for your children.
“Your house can become more resilient in this time of COVID-19 if we work to become the antidote to stress we know is coming,” Pinhorn says.
“This generation of children was stressed and over-scheduled before COVID-19. Unfortunately, we needed an event like COVID-19 to force us to acknowledge how we have glorified the busyness of our lives.”
The Pinhorn sisters are hopeful that the days of rushing from one activity to another will be reassessed for families this year.
“We are still in a pandemic, and children have lots of stressors and fears. Children have always needed purposeful rest and restore time and this year they will need more. They have to get up each day and face stressful demanding school situations. Then they are expected to get up every new morning and do it all over again,” Pinhorn said.
“As a culture, we are great at scheduling busyness, and not so good at scheduling rest or connected downtime. We ask families to have a hard look within their family-life and ask - 'where is the connected downtime with my child?'. If it is lacking, then we can start there.”
Expecting pre-COVID-19 lives back right now is a fantasy, adds Pinhorn. Now is the time to go slow, observe our children (and ourselves) for stress behaviours and know when to pump the breaks to lighten the load - not add more to it.
- Newfoundland and Labrador parents plead for details of school re-entry plan
- MARTHA MUZYCHKA: Dread and this year’s countdown to school
- THE MOM SCENE: Exhausted parents, here’s how to hang in there before school starts
- Kids returning to school: Anxiety, sharing and everything in between
- Liberals press government for P.E.I. back-to-school plan
- EDITORIAL: Nova Scotia unveils solid back-to-school plan