A lot of attention is being paid to the academic impact of the remote learning approach that millions of Texas schoolchildren will likely experience, to some degree, for the upcoming 2020-2021 school year.
But there are additional concerns that should also be given a fair amount of attention, according to subject matter experts – the potential impact that at-home learning can have on a child’s physical activity level and on their amount and quality of social interaction.
As for their activity, organizations like Active Schools have long been concerned that children are not active enough.
“Kids need physical activity for full, healthy, productive lives. But there is a nationwide crisis of inactivity,” the organization notes on its website. “There’s only one way to fix that: parents, teachers, administrators and the community coming together to take action.”
But with no formal school setting, along with its gym class and recess for younger kids, it can be a challenge for children to get their recommended 60 minutes of physical activity, according to Charlene Burgeson, Executive Director of Active Schools.
“Regardless of what their home situation is, regardless of their family’s ability to engage them in community activities, school is a place for all kids get the basics of what they need,” Burgeson said. “So it is a huge concern when they cannot give kids the movement opportunity and the physical education they need at school.”
Burgeson encouraged parents of younger children to seek out creative solutions for physical fitness, including ‘follow along’ videos, and to consider that a child’s activity does not need to all happen at once.
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“Many parents of school-age kids have realized that you just need to break up the day, that kids can’t be doing schoolwork, or reading, or watching TV all day,” Burgeson said. “So we are seeing families look for ways to take these physical activity breaks.”
As for the reduced opportunity for social interaction, which has likely suffered since last spring, parents could do their children a great service by arranging for semiregular virtual meetups with their friends, according to Roshini Kumar, a Licensed Professional Counselor and Clinical Therapist for Children’s Health.
“When we have something that we are looking forward to it fosters a sense of motivation, and drive, and sometimes an internal sense of happiness that we have something to look forward to,” Kumar said. “So a lot of times when there is not a routine it can cause a sense of chaos, or just confusion, in a child’s mind which could contribute to anxiety.”
Kumar said a few common signs of rising anxiety in children are an inability to concentrate on tasks, or noted loss of interest in things or activities they have previously been interested in.
But Kumar stressed that parents who find themselves to be overly concerned about the long-term wellbeing of their kids during the pandemic should consider their kids’ ability to overcome adversity.
“I think it is important for parents to remember that children are resilient,” Kumar said. “If they have overcome difficult situations in the past they will overcome difficult situations in the future.”