Mental health in the pandemic hits small children too, says Lisa Redmond who runs Active Kids Academy and Stretch-n-Grow Wicklow.
Lisa is building an online community to give children a vital outlet during Covid-19. As a kids fitness consultant and special needs assistant, she has moved her services online to offer free support to families, including daily videos, email workouts and one-to-one Zoom sessions.
She says: 'It's more than just exercise. The loss of an outdoor life means our children have lost so much more. As we adapt to our new normal and plough our way through lockdown, it's time to assess the emotional impact that the loss of normality is having on our children. Take sport and exercise for example. It's not just an hour running around a field or bouncing around a studio. To children around the world it represents a whole lot more. For many it's a safe community, a place to be themselves, socialise with their friends in an inclusive environment and get a break from life.'
Lisa has over 15 years experience working with children and young adults aged 2 to 18, both in school and as an SNA, running mental health programs, building a successful children's fitness and well-being business and running her own sports programs in preschools, Montessori schools, primary schools and Additional Needs Units.
She maintains that sport is a vital outlet for children's emotions and life stresses.
Lisa says: 'It gives them a balance and boosts mental health, teaching beneficial coping skills from a young age. Helping them develop positive habits to deal with challenging issues. It's where their endorphins are ignited, sparking happy debris into their lives. Even from the age of two we instil positive mental health habits and educate children about how doing little things such as being kind to yourself can make big differences.'
With years of experience working with children with mental health issues and additional needs, Lisa has seen first had how beneficial any form of activity or exercise can be for every child.
She points out that: 'Under normal circumstances, when we aren't distancing, exercise gives children a sense of belonging. A place where they belong, where they are accepted, where they can excel regardless of ability. It's who they are and what they do. These classes and clubs are vital, especially to children with additional needs and their families. There is already a shortage of services available for children and it is crucial that we ensure that every child has access to a program which meets their specific needs right now. A wide range of services have been removed at this time so if we can keep children moving and provide a structured activity program, the benefits for children and their families will be immeasurable.'
The idea is to keep more children active while taking pressure off parents. It's important to meet children's specific needs as they adjust to such enormous change, especially when access has been shut down.
'We need to remember that ability is what a child can do. Therefore it is more important than ever that we create an online community and let all children flourish as they gradually adapt to the change and continue to achieve beyond our expectations,' adds Lisa.
She believes the stakes are much now higher now since the outbreak of Covid-19.
'Sport has the power to increase confidence and self-esteem. To teach children to set goals and work to accomplish them. To learn to fail and recover. To build resilience and strong attitudes to carry through life. It's fun, it's safe and it's their own little community. Their club, their class or their place. Then add in all of the obvious benefits such as improved health, skill development, increased fitness, better coordination, balance and agility, to name a few.'
With so many activities now closed to children without warning, it is important to find different ways for them to fill that void. One way she suggests is building an online community to give kids an outlet during Covid-19 restrictions.
Lisa explains: 'We can ensure that we help our children to keep active. An hour a day can be so beneficial. The good news is it doesn't have to be a continuous hour, you can do it in bursts. Also a lot of things that you are probably doing already such as your daily walk, bike rides, playing in the garden and going up and down the stairs fifteen times all count as exercise. So that hour isn't as daunting as it sounds. In a time when so much is being asked of parents this can sound like another unnecessary burden but it shouldn't be. Nobody is expecting you to become a PE teacher or coach overnight, you have more than enough to do. Thankfully there is plenty of help available.'
Lisa has moved her business online and is offering free supports to families. She posts daily video, email workouts and provides Zoom appointments for families.
She is available to talk about how to get our children through these difficult times and can be contacted on 0877813980 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.