Rethinking PE – Back To School

Delaney Ruston – Kids and teens all over the country are dealing with stress around back to school. Adults all over are working hard to support and help our wonderful youth. This week I feel lucky to be doing an event with Jane Fonda and the organization she founded almost 30 years ago that focuses on empowering teens and kids. The organization is called Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Power and Potential. The talk is about parenting screen time and how youth can be a larger part of the solution. Here is the link if you would like to attend.

One of the organization’s programs called Power Moves is about creating more ways kids can get moving. This got me thinking about the physical movement in this time of distance learning.

As kids do school from home, how many will have ways to be physically active? A girl I know is starting kindergarten and is in a pod with four kids, and the home where they do their school has a blow-up bouncy outside! Sadly, so many kids will not have anything close to that. 

And before I even write anything more, if you are a parent that has a kid or teen that you have tried everything to get them to move, pre COVID and now during COVID, and nothing works, I get you. I have been there. The last thing we need is an article or blog saying all the wonderful attributes of movement for our kids, and yet nothing we do or say gets them moving! I don’t have a magic bullet, but I do have some ideas that may be helpful. And as always, please share your ideas on Facebook around this topic.

Ideas to help get your child or teen moving, or at least more in that direction

  1. OPEN: Online Physical Education Network has dozens of free cool ideas of things to do in,  and around the home, such as setting up a frisbee golf course. 
  2. There is also this amazing resource Action for Healthy Kids, which has many terrific ideas.
  3. It is all about choices. So, you have a child who does not want to do any movement. Let them know, just like school, some PE time is expected during the day, but the great thing is they can choose which activities. They can have other choices too, like picking what time they do the activity and how long. Many families make recreational screen time contingent on getting outside and moving for a while and not just slowly walking while looking at a screen. I realize each family feels differently about their kid being outside without a device, so, of course, decide that as a family.
  4. There is power in being on a team or having an accountability partner.  My daughter was part of the track and cross country teams for one year in high school, and she always says how having the team made all the difference in getting her out and running. I know some kids have access to teams now for motivation, and yet others do not.  Is there a way to create a small neighborhood group?
  5. Some kids and teens I talk to are enjoying doing a video class once a week or so with a friend. They are all in their own homes but agree to log into a specific class at a certain time on their computers, and then they interact and with each other throughout the class via Facetime or the like. Does your kid know anyone doing this?
  6. For an older teen who refuses to do any movement, think about  saying, “I love you too much to fight about it.” That is what Ned Johnson and Bill Stixrud say in their book, “The Self-Driven Child,” “I love you too much to fight about homework,” and physical movement is the same — meaning there is only so much we can ask or demand from our kids in certain areas. The key is that they don’t feel negatively judged by us.
  7. Get help. Talk with a friend, an aunt, etc., and see if they might suggest a hike or other activity to do with your kid.
  8. Freak them out. My neighbor is a dad who recently retired, and a couple of years ago, he learned to skateboard and is always skateboarding in my neighborhood. He also just told me how he is enjoying the 30-minute ab workout with the TikTok star Charli D’ Amelio. So, as a parent, just start working out some days to online influencers in your living room, and maybe your kid will join you.  
  9. There are so many ways people pair physical endeavors with raising awareness and funds for a cause. Getting everyone thinking of ones they’ve heard of is a nice way to talk about this idea. When I was in Berkeley High School, I participated in our 24-hour dance-a-thon fundraiser. It was grueling, and I never made it to the end.  
  10. For everyone in the discussion, how do you like to refer to your physical activity? Exercise? PE? Sports? Play? I have stopped calling it movement exercise with my patients because it can be a trigger word for anyone who beats themselves up for not exercising enough. Instead, I refer to it as physical movement. I don’t want them to think just about positive health impacts; I also want them to know that movement can help them with their mental wellbeing.
  11. Pull out or order some big chalk and ask your kid to draw some games outside, such a Hopscotch or Four Square. I got this idea from the Rant and Rave column in the Seattle Times. The rave part of the column includes all sorts of ways people give shout-outs. Here is the one that inspired this idea: 

“RAVE to my lovely neighbor and her boyfriend for setting up all kinds of games for kids and adults to play outside on the sidewalk as they walk by. They can play hopscotch, tic-tac-toe or checkers. They change the games often. The entire operation is overseen by a teddy bear with a face mask.”

Here are some questions to get a conversation started:

  1. What is your favorite activity that moves your body?
  2. Is there anything you’ve wanted to try?
  3. Do you follow in exercise influencers?

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