You have the children at home with you 24/7. You have all the responsibilities you had before. Despite working from home you seem to be having to work harder than ever before. You get up, feed the kids, try to begin your working day whilst making sure they are still going about theirs. You have dinner. You go to bed, then you repeat. You aren’t allowed to see your friends and family (at least not more than one of them at a time). You can’t go to your favourite restaurant, and you can’t get away for some sunshine. You wonder when life will return back to normal. If you are feeling demotivated and low, with your years of life experience and resilience training, then imagine how your children feel.
Their world has been turned upside down. No longer do they get to see their friends on a daily basis. No longer do they get to do their favourite sport (that is the sporty ones out there). They have to do all the same learning they do in school, but in front of a screen and without getting to see their mates. It has been almost a year since the UK went into its first lockdown and times have been hard for everyone. But one thing is for certain, the younger generation are in a serious time of need.
The overweight and obesity rates in the UK are at an all time high. Even the children who are active might easily be suffering from mental health problems such as body dysmorphia from all the instagram models and reality celebrities they see on the ‘gram on a day to day basis. For many young people, daily life consists of going from one screen to the next, with very little inspiration, initiative or adversity. Having worked as a youth fitness coach for over five years I can see that the younger generation are going to be facing a future challenge like no other. We as a nation have made life so complex, when what we really need is to strip things back to the raw basics. So what can be done as parents and coaches to inspire our younger generation?
#1 Lead from the front
“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way”
If we want the younger generation of today to be happy, healthy and strong, then first we must ask ourselves the question “am I happy, healthy and strong?” If you want your children to be polite, then be polite yourself. If you want your child to eat good food and be healthy, then make sure they see you eating your veggies. If you want your child to get away from the screen and get outdoors, then be ready to embrace nature yourself. If you would like your child to have a life of fulfillment and chase their dreams, let them see you doing the same.
Although we may not realise it. As parents, coaches, teachers and older siblings, we are role models. The young mind is highly plastic - it is constantly absorbing information and building its own attitudes and beliefs. You may not believe yourself to be a leader, but if you have children then you are leading the most important army you shall ever lead. There is no other individual that a child will spend more time with than their parents (especially in a lockdown), therefore the parent has a huge influence on the life of their child. Every action and word that you make or say will go into the subconscious brain of your child. If you are turning off your alarm and struggling to get out of bed in the morning, they see it. If you are moaning about your hardship and current state of affairs, they hear it. Now more than ever, your child is looking to you for inspiration. You can be the light that they need.
Want them to spend less time on the playstation? Suggest going out for a run with them. Want them to build good habits when they are older? Give them some responsibilities around the house. Let them start by cooking a meal once a week.
#2 Build structure
As humans we thrive off of it. We need it at home, we need it at work, we need it when we exercise. Productivity and growth come through having a routine. Without structure we can fall to the wayside with our goals, dreams and objectives being forgotten. Maybe a little extreme, but there is a reason that we like structure as humans. It allows us to maximise our time and ensure we are staying on track. Unfortunately with social media and technology more readily available than ever and the younger generation doing their schooling from home it can be very easy for the usual structure to go out the window. I have spoken with parents whose children literally roll out of bed in the morning, sign in to their lesson and get back into bed. I have also heard from a number of parents whose children haven’t left the house in over a week. A whole week! We aren’t supposed to be trapped inside the same environment 24 hours a day.
Structure is important for all of us, but especially for the younger generation. Having a routine provides them with a purpose, it gives them clear direction on a daily basis. It is way too easy for them to get distracted by the next shiny thing that has come along. As a parent I would suggest building the magic 3 into their daily routine (every day!). What are the magic 3? They are our most potent and natural forms of medicine: exercise, the outdoors and quality food.
Exercise: I would suggest trying to build exercise into their routine first thing in the morning (as well as yours). I am not saying you have to go all military on them and chase them down the road in a car screaming at them (unless thats what they enjoy). But it could literally be 5-10mins of dynamic stretching, just to stimulate their brain and get some blood flow through the body. Start small and gradually build over time. Of course, the younger you build in these good habits with your child(ren) the easier it would be. Remember the first point (lead from the front), they are much likely to engage if you are following your own advice.
The outdoors: This can easily be joined with the above. Whether it is a light jog in the morning, a cycle with their mates or just a lunchtime stroll. Getting out of the house is important for numerous reasons including: relieves stress, boosts the immune system and improves creativity.
Quality food: I do not have any facts and figures, but I am sure that if you are a family that sits down together for a home-made dinner you are most likely in the minority. Not only is the food we eat one of the best forms of natural medicine we have, the simplest way to cure the obesity pandemic and the many diseases associated with it, but it is also an opportunity to build bonds. Sitting down with your children to eat is a great way to build a connection with them and take an interest in their lives.
#3: Develop new skills and interests
Yes, 100% many children are suffering as they can’t do the usual activities they enjoy (at least not in person). Yet, many children will have significantly more time in their day without the travel to and from school and the many extracurricular activities that go with it. Of course, for many young people they are probably finding it very easy to fill that extra time sitting on their gadgets, yet we all know that isn't beneficial for their long-term development.
Just because they can’t do their normal activities doesn’t mean there is nothing to do. For example, as a strength and conditioning coach, I believe this is a fantastic time for young athletes to build their strength and fitness up. They would never ever get so much time where they are not participating in sport. Rather than sit on the couch and become another overweight statistic, use the time to make sure you are fitter and stronger when you can return to sport so you don’t get injured. Many young athlete’s I work with simply don’t do enough physical preparation to cope with the demands of their sport, well now is the time to start.
But it doesn’t have to be physical, why not build some entrepreneurial spirit in your child. Bring our their creativity by setting them a lockdown challenge to come up with their own business idea. Even better, why not link it to a charity in some way? Who knows, you might have the next Elon Musk or Oprah Winfrey sitting at the dinner table with you.
I know that we are all facing circumstances like never before. I know that there are few people sitting at home smiling and wishing lockdown would last forever. But we must always remember the big picture. We must have perspective. You might not be able to go to your favourite restaurant or go and play a game of golf or watch the football at the weekend. But I can guarantee you that 90% of people reading this in the UK will still be in a better position than a large majority of people living around the world. To summarise:
You are a leader. It is up to you which type!
Always include the Magic 3
Encourage creativity and experiences.