My daughter knows I’ve been writing a blog where she sometimes makes appearances, so this week I thought I would get her involved and ask her if there was a topic she thought I should address. Her answer was surprisingly quick – she said I should write about how to get kids outside for a walk while in lockdown. This response had to be the most confusing, ironic statement I can remember hearing. At the moment, my daughter has absolutely no desire whatsoever to step foot outside no matter what the incentive or bribe.
Where we live we have been in a prolonged lockdown, stuck inside without anywhere we actually can go. Living in a city without a car, our whole family normally gets in a full 10,000 steps a day without even trying. Walking to school, work, to and through the tube, wherever…the steps add up quickly. Now that our only real destination is the grocery store once or twice a week, the motivation to go outside is at exactly zero for my kids. Sometimes it feels like trying to walk dogs, except that my actual dog loves going for walks. Exercise and daylight are so incredibly important for mental health, which is why I keep fighting with my kids over this, but then I wonder if the battles about going outside somehow are worse than just saying forget it, go hide in a dark corner and I will see you when this whole pandemic thing passes over.
In the middle of writing this my husband coincidentally asked my kids if they wanted to go out for a walk with him. How I wish I could have included an audio clip to attach to this post! I could hear the sighs, complaints, resistance, gripes, excuses, you name it, going on upstairs with my kids:
‘I already went out today!’
‘I walked a lot yesterday!’
‘My legs are tired!’
And then my favorite, most irrelevant excuse - ‘My elbow hurts!’
Admittedly, I have been concerned off and on about larger underlying problems, as not wanting to exercise can be a red flag when it comes to mental health. Changes in our kids’ behaviors, interests and moods are all things we should be looking at closely to make sure they are generally happy and content. We have had short phases of feeling down pass through our family, but observing my kids over this time, the lack of desire to get outside seems to simply stem from the fact that the more they are inside, the more they don’t want to go outside.
I know that many of you are experiencing this exact same dilemma, and you might be hoping for some helpful suggestions on how to get our kids to go for walks with us. The reality is that I’ve got nothing for you. Just absolutely nothing. I think my daughter suggested this topic as some sort of twisted riddle, to see if I could actually get her to put on her shoes and walk out the door without resistance. One important suggestion I do have is to at least keep going on walks outside yourself, and keep inviting your kids to go with you. At the very least we are setting an example, showing them that we want to include them and ultimately promoting mental health and mindful living. Who knows, kids are full of surprises, and one of these times they might actually give us an emphatic ‘Yes!’.