Supporting our young people during the crisis – a heartfelt message to all parents from WWPIS

Undoubtedly the events around the world are having a huge impact on us all and as I write this piece today, I am grateful for been able to get out and do some exercise, have a Mother’s Day lunch and spend time with my two children.

I also realise that there are many not as fortunate as me and many who are out working, supporting the nation and from the team here at WWPIS I want to thank you for the sterling job that you are all doing. My heart and thoughts go out to you all.

The last week or so has been tough. As both an educationalist and someone whose children are heavily involved in sport it made me realise what we may have taken for granted and allowed me personally to reflect on what we normally perceive as important.

Those heavily scheduled weeks, washing lots of kit, filling the car up with petrol, managing other siblings, organising babysitting, crashing from one training session and match to another, coaching and having children in front of us engaging with us already feels like a major void in my life.

I have found it incredibly tough watching the suffering, anxiety, stress and fear from members of my own family and from a large number of the population. However, I am a teacher, adult and a father and I feel the responsibility in trying to help my family and others navigate the next few weeks and months. To that end I have been putting together sporting programmes for our whole school community , some interactive, some requiring equipment, others not and I never want people to have nothing that they can’t do to look after their physical and emotional wellbeing, that includes both parents and their children.

Well done and thank you to all of the amazing people out there who have offered free resources, live and interactive sessions and given out plenty of ideas to use at home. If you are the parent of a sporting child then check out Twitter, Facebook and You Tube to find a wide range of resources. If you want anything specific, then please get in touch with me at gordon@wwpis.co.uk and I will do my best to help support you at this challenging time.

My attention has now turned to ensuring that home is a safe place for my wife and young children and that we remain positive and come out of the other side better people for this whole experience.

It has already thrown up its own challenges. All of us have our own agendas, our own worries and lots of time to kill. Finding the balance in the family unit and ensuring we are all singing from the same hymn sheet will be a constant challenge but one that we will need to navigate.

These are my feelings but what impact has it had on my own children?
The emotional impact on our children has been huge. They are already missing friends, teammates, their usual activity and the fun that they normally have in a normal week. There have been tears, lots of questions and anxiety about grandparents as well as struggling to adapt to the huge time that we now have at home.

A full Sunday lunch today was enjoyed for the first time in a long time and the time t really talk was valued by all of us. Not that we do not have lots of conversations, but it felt like there was time to have them.

I am sure many of us parents are facing the same challenges.

I have been thinking a lot about how we can support our young people during this time and here are a few thoughts…..

Sunday lunch today again highlighted the need for us to be there for our children and create type for conversations. Ask them lots of open questions, questions that allow them to reflect and respond with more than just a yes or no answer.

We need to give them space to ask their own questions and really listen to their responses. Just as we know that children and adults see the sporting world very differently there will be lots of children certainly seeing things with very different lenses to our own during the current crisis.

Many children will have been training hard for events or nearing the completion of seasons and will naturally be disappointed. We need to be understanding and positive in these conversations, understanding that it all means a lot to our young people and try to work out a plan together.

We can only control what we can now, as yet we are unsure as to how this will all pan out in the coming months.

Perhaps have a family meal and meeting and come up with a plan as to how each day may look, what each person wants to achieve from each day and how you can all work together to do things in each slot that allow some individual time as well as plenty of time together. With face to face connection at an all-time low spending time together seems to take on particular significance.

Having a clear plan will help reduce tension and give you a framework from which to build on.

Your day could take on anything, be creative and do what works for you in your context. Have you got some academic time in there, some physical activity, some play time, some cooking time, some work in the garden, some reading time and some film time? These are merely suggestions and there are many more. Many parents will also need to find the time to work.

I have already identified a lovely slot early in the morning to get on with work whilst everyone is sleeping. It is simply peaceful, and it is allowing me to think clearly about the day ahead.

I have spoken to lots of parents particularly in both grassroots and pathway programmes concerned about their children missing their usual training and routines.

I think the important thing to remember here is that everyone around the world is in the same boat and this can be a good response to our children when they bring up the subject.

At this stage we are on physical distancing which allows us to carry on with certain aspects of their training. Running programmes, circuit training and interactive workouts on the tv or devices remain possible.

Many organisations are providing help and support for parents during this difficult time.

It is also a great opportunity for our children to get creative, think about what they want to achieve and create their own games and training programmes. It is amazing how creative our children can be when given the opportunity. Children certainly move better when the adults in their life are also joining in, perhaps it gives us as an opportunity to train with them. Not sure I am looking forward to being taken for a run by my youngest.

This time also allows us to reconnect with the whole concept of play and give that opportunity to our children. Modern day society has lost sight of the power of play and freedom and our children have become so heavily scheduled on a weekly basis that they have perhaps missed out on elements of their childhood that we maybe had as adults. Now would be a perfect time to fill some of those gaps.

Take a moment to think about what you enjoyed as a child in a different generation and see if you can introduce it to your own children? Ferris Buellers day off and Twins have been enjoyed in the MacLelland household this weekend.

It is also a great time for our children to catch up academically, many schools and teachers will be willing to help. I know that this can be daunting for a lot of parents but there are lots of different learning opportunities available. This is particularly important for those who have a large sporting commitment who spend most of the year constantly playing catch up.

Eating and sleeping well are also things that can be placed on the agenda. We are in control of these and it will help our young people once we get over the crisis come out of the other side stronger. Can you involve your children in the cooking process for example?

We encourage parents in our workshops to get the children involved in the cooking process as soon as possible as those in pathway programmes particularly in the later teen years may well need to be able to look after themselves nutritionally and this is a key life skill not just for them but for all children when they finally leave home.

It is also a wonderful opportunity for us to refocus as parents on ensuring we are raising a multi-faceted individual particularly for us sporting parents who have children heavily invested in sporting programmes. Can we introduce them to some life skills that we normally do not have the time to implement?

The current crisis has certainly brought about a sense of perspective and what is really important in the world. Sport and sporting achievement will always be important to many individuals and communities and rightly so, but it is not the be all and end all and certainly should not define us or our children as people.

When everything returns to normal, when the noise returns, the washing of kit commences, the passion and love that we have for our sport is back all over our media channels, when screaming children are shouting and laughing on playgrounds and pitches, we will all be so relieved and grateful of that.

Perhaps when our sporting world recommences, we will savour every moment that we have together even more, take nothing for granted, have a different perspective and perhaps cherish everything that is really important in the world.

Gordon MacLelland is the CEO and founder of Working with Parents in Sport, which supports parents and coaches in working together to provide children with the best possible sporting experiences. To find out more about their work please visit www.parentsinsport.co.uk.