The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a tremendous amount of hardship on a global scale. Societies have dealt with the repercussions of viral disease, and the impacts it has on the health and wellness of their community. Although the pandemic has taken a toll on people of all ages, young children have been impacted in a crucial way.
Childhood is a pivotal period in one’s life; a time to learn the fundamental skills necessary for adulthood. For children growing up in the midst of a pandemic, these foundational experiences are hindered with isolation and online learning. Children are at the age where socialization plays a huge role in both their mental and emotional wellbeing. Aside from school, sports are one of the biggest environments where kids get the opportunity to interact with individuals their same age. Sports are unique in the fact that they encompass mental, physical, emotional, and social aspects, helping individuals grow in a variety of areas. Both practice and performance environments enable children to interact with one another while simultaneously exercising and having fun.
Not only are sports a great way to facilitate socialization, they are also beneficial to the physical and mental health of children. While it is clear to see that sports have a positive impact on physical wellbeing, the mental benefits are just as significant. When engaging in physical activity, our brains release serotonin, a hormone that regulates mood and increases levels of happiness. Serotonin is a natural anti-depressant that impacts every part of the human body.
Since the pandemic began, there has been an increase in suicide ideation rates among children and teens. A recent article by The Official Journal of The American Academy of Pediatrics gathered data through risk screenings for youth who sought care in a pediatric Emergency Departments. The journal concluded with evidence of statistically elevated suicide ideation amongst youth and teens. Potential contributors to the rise in ideation rates include social isolation and increased technology use. With limited socialization and a lack of initiative to get children into a daily routine of learning, exercise and interaction, the increase in suicide ideation rates may continue to rise.
By allowing youth sports to occur, children will have the opportunity to engage with their peers as well as improve their physical and mental fitness. There are numerous safe ways to engage in sports that do not put individuals at risk for contracting COVID-19. Important key factors when allowing children back into sports include social distancing and wearing masks. The best way to ensure the safety of your child is to research sports programs who respect COVID guidelines, but will also provide children with the opportunity to play their sport.