I have always tried to be a glass half full kind of person. Certainly, that is hard sometimes and even harder right now. Though I try to avoid au current terms and colloquial buzz words such as pivot and resilience, I must admit that the pandemic has brought out some positive things that will help kids to both pivot and be resilient. Or more colloquially, the pandemic has allowed kids to enhance their durability, toughness, and adaptability which are at the core of both these popular buzz words.
Psychologists define resilience as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress. Though at its heart resilience involves “bouncing back” from these experiences, it can also involve profound personal growth. Similarly, when one pivots, one adapts and changes as a result of a setback. So I guess when one successfully pivots, one is resilient or it takes resilience to pivot. Either way, no matter what word you choose I am seeing some positive signs that have enabled kids and families to come out on the other side of the pandemic changes for the positive. And, it is my hope that some of the things I have noticed will remain long after the pandemic has been solved and before the next one hits.
Specifically, here are my top positive outcomes from the pandemic that I think have helped kids and families cope and survive and that I hope will remain in place:
In July I tried to buy a new bike only to find that just about every bike in the city under $1,000 had long since left the shops. Fortunately, I happened upon a 21speed hybrid in an appropriate size for me in a suitably loud orange colour. A few clicks on Amazon for a helmet, a bell, and a rearview mirror and I was all set. Once happily on the road, I began to notice bikes everywhere. Now I don’t know for sure if it is just a very good example of a cognitive bias, but all of a sudden it seemed everyone was riding bikes in Toronto, bike lanes were similarly sprouting up out of nowhere. And with respect to that, I noticed come September and now into November, more and more kids are riding their bikes to school. And more and more families seem to be out and about together. I hope this continues for the kids because the fresh air, exercise, and independence one gains from riding have been lost over the years.
Of this, I am sure, the increase in dog owners since the pandemic is not an example of an availability bias. It’s real. Animal shelters and breeders have reported a surge in interest since March as people are home more and find themselves in a better position to care for animals. And it’s not just puppies that are in demand. All pet-related businesses are reporting upticks in sales and service requests. More than anecdotal, many studies have shown that kids with dogs, in particular, are more active, less prone to moodiness, and have generally better health. Of course, this goes for pet ownership in general… I just happen to be a dog person. No matter what companion you choose, I hope families continue to make their homes happier and their kids healthier in the future.
Walking to school
As I am out walking my unruly English Springer Spaniel these days, I am noticing more and more kids both accompanied and unaccompanied walking to school than I did pre-COVID. And they are also doing so with their parents more than they did last year for obvious reason. Walking to school used to be the norm before minivans and carpools. Again, the fresh air, exercise, and opportunity to socialize with parents or friends is something that hopefully will remain once parents are back in a regular work routine. And if not every day, perhaps a few times a week and even more family walks on the weekend will be a result. Here’s hoping.
If you’ve tried to buy a jigsaw puzzle or board game lately, you’ll know that they are a hot commodity. It seems that more and more families are hunkering down with their kids to while away some of the extra time together. Interestingly, the first game that many stores reported going out of stock was the aptly named Pandemic. And besides the nostalgia element or a harkening back to simpler times, a great deal of research has shown that playing games with people is a great way to build connections. Games build trust because we all subscribe to the same rules of a game. Games build relationships and enhance connection two things that our fast-paced pre-Covid lives diminished.
Not every parent will agree with this, but there is a greater amount of positive interaction between parents and children with respect to school work as a result of the pandemic. With more emphasis on virtual learning, and more kids staying home, parents are by necessity more involved in their children’s schoolwork. Again, many studies have shown that greater parental engagement – and I don’t mean mom or dad doing the science fair project – leads to greater child engagement and fosters great academic achievement. It may mean a little brushing up on calculus or chemistry, but the time spent together is well worth the effort. And of course, the extended family can also get in on the action which gives grandparents and aunts and uncles an opportunity to build stronger relationships.
If you go for a walk during the school day you will see more students outside than ever before. They are in parks, schoolyards, and even cemeteries. Many schools are relying on what nature provides though some have built physical classrooms outside that are a little less weather dependent. Of course, kids have always gone outside at lunch and recess, but until the pandemic, it was rare to see anybody outside of a school except during these scheduled breaks. I know some of my most successful classes as a teacher took place during the spring or fall when I would take classes outside to read or discuss a novel, short story, or poem. The benefits of true outdoor experiential education have been known for years, but just getting kids outside for a half hour or so is also beneficial. Studies show that kids learn better outside and that being outdoors reduces stress levels.
The family that plays together…
While out for what may be my last bike ride of the season on the weekend, I noticed kids and parents playing together outside. There were ball hockey games, games of 21 on the local basketball court, and a number of other activities going on throughout my ride. Once again, my findings are entirely anecdotal, but just on my own street alone I am seeing parents and children interacting through sport that I never witnessed before the onset of the pandemic. Besides the obvious physical health benefits play helps build strong relationships with your child. Play adds pleasure, energy, and resilience to the parent-child bond. And just like board games, play helps children learn to trust others and feel safe.
The most gardening I ever did with my parents was raking the leaves in the fall as part of my deal to earn an allowance. Though I do recall many trips to the nursery in the spring to help carry plants, soil, mulch, and peat moss to the car. I’m not sure my parents realized it then, nor did I, but gardening with your child is a great way to have fun together while learning. It truly is a soothing lifelong hobby. And like so many other pastimes, COVID gardening is a thing this year. There are so many skills your child can learn from growing seeds and understanding how plants grow to the cause and effect of plant life. And the beauty of it is that age is not an issue. Of course, it’s a good idea to make sure younger children know the difference between dandelions and your roses.
Though more for self-preservation than because of anticipated positive outcomes, parents have by instinct taken it upon themselves to support the emotional needs of their children during the pandemic. I am sure there are many more examples out there, but the bottom line is that in many ways, parents are assisting their children to pivot flourish, and be resilient at a very difficult time. As noted at the outset, it is my hope that most, if not all of these activities will continue long after the pandemic is resolved.