Like so many families across the country, the pandemic has disrupted our usual routines. To stay active, we’ve had to create new rituals. One simple change we made was to go for a daily family walk. It’s become something we all look forward to—but it didn’t start out that way.
The first time we told our 11- and 13-year-olds we were going for a family walk, you’d have thought the path was a trail of burning lava.
Although they weren’t thrilled about it (to say the least!), after several weeks of lockdown, we knew we needed to get moving together. Walking was the simplest way. After all, the weather was clearly becoming nicer and far more welcoming for short trips around the neighbourhood or along local paths.
Related read: How to jazz up your neighbourhood stroll
Walking opens the door to more family activities
The summer months meant we were able to continue our walks while also finding new ways to be active. We played catch, swam in the inflatable pool, and more. But the start of the school year, and the beginning of distance learning, changed our schedules once again.
With the kids starting grades 6 and 9 online, my husband and I needed to adjust our work-at-home hours around the kids’ school schedules. The family walk would become a mandatory recess activity that we knew would benefit all of us.
These walks only take about 20-40 minutes on average, depending on the route and the plans we have. Originally, their school breaks only overlapped for a total of 15 minutes. We swapped some things around and ended up creating a 45-minute break window that overlaps every day. This is usually when we walk. It’s become an activity we all look forward to.
Despite their initial reluctance, my preteen and teen now ask every day if we will be going (and we try to unless the weather is bad or there’s a scheduling conflict). By 11:30 a.m., it’s them ushering us out the door.
A family that walks together talks together
On the walk we pair up and enjoy uninterrupted conversations. The kids have asked that we don’t talk about school much during this time. Instead, we share their creative ideas or talk about video games or television—whatever’s on their minds.
The tween and teen years can be tricky for parents to navigate. As we walk, we’re treated to deep conversations (or silly ones) with our kids. I know these walks during the pandemic are further building the foundations of our relationships together. The health benefits are also immense.
It isn’t lost on me that as the weather turns colder, it’s going to be harder to get all of us out the door but we’ve agreed to make it a priority. Without the kids being in school and getting some of their outdoor winter activity time that way, we must create and plan more opportunities as a family to do so.
Related read: Connect kids with winter with a five-senses walk
Our intentions are still to walk during the winter, on days when the sidewalks aren’t dangerously icy or when we don’t have frostbite warnings (in Ottawa, those happen often enough). When we can’t walk, we’ll plan to build a snowman, find a hill to sled on, or skate at the local outdoor rink that’s just a short drive away. We will make it work, because we have to.
In the meantime, we continue our daily recess walks. Each time we seem to add a new layer or two to our clothing, but as with every other walk, the conversation easily flows.
It’s a way to help each other through difficult times
We can’t discount how amazing the time we spend walking with our kids has been and will continue to be during these difficult times. We all need it for our physical and mental health. I love that the kids no longer protest and seem to have embraced this time as much as we have.
Maybe we are cooler to be around than they let on—but don’t tell them I said that! The walks haven’t eliminated their ability to eye-roll.
Photo courtesy of Rebecca Stanisic.