Using PE with Joe to build your child’s relationship skills

29 April 2020
Catherine Hine
Catherine Hine is CEO of Fastn. Prior to this, she led and advised programmes and campaigns tackling poverty and inequality nationally and internationally for over fifteen years and observed first-hand the key role that family and dependable relationships have on life outcomes. 
Are you one of the million families making a morning workout with Joe Wicks part of your routine? Daily exercise time is not only a great way to keep fit but an opportunity to role model positive relationships with your children.

With school temporarily replaced by home learning, parents’ role as primary educators is changing. As schools are making clear, it is not a parents’ job to teach their child the whole curriculum especially as many parents are also continuing to work. However, helping your child learn relationship skills through sport helps set them up for life and will likely make getting through lockdown easier and more enjoyable for the whole family. 

Positive family relationships are vital to children and young people’s development, happiness and health, now and after lockdown. They have an impact on everything from their behaviour to their social lives and academic success. As research from Harvard Center for the Developing Child has shown, relationships can protect them from big challenges like mental and physical ill-health and poverty. 

To build relationships skills and understanding, children and young people need to experience healthy relationships that they can depend upon.

How exercise helps children and young people learn about relationships

Exercising together is a great way to build healthy and reliable relationships and an opportunity to set your child up for learning throughout the day. Clinical psychologist and parent, Kerry Ashton-Shaw, explains:

To learn, we need to feel safe and connected to others. Exercise is great for this. Rhythmic, repetitive activities reduce anxiety, so we can understand and regulate our emotions. As well as supporting academic learning, this helps children and young people in their relationships too. Exercising with family allows children and young people to develop vital life skills, with adults role modelling empathy, social skills and self-esteem. Skills that will support children and young people long after lockdown.

Role modelling relationships through sport

So, how do you help your children develop their relationship skills while doing star jumps and press-ups?

In 2019, Birmingham City University researched Sport Birmingham’s M.A.D (Make a Difference) programme. Whilst this programme used sport and mentoring to support children and young people on the verge of school exclusion, many of the findings are relevant to families exercising together during lockdown.

Tips from our learning for exercising together:

  • If you can, exercise regularly and use support available to develop a daily routine. In the absence of school structure, the routine of doing PE with Joe together at a set time daily, helps manage stress and practise positive habits during this unsettling period.
  • Exercise together if you can. This shows your children you’re keen to interact with them and spend time doing something together.
  • Make it fun. Exercise and laughing together are good ways to relieve everyone’s stress. Scientists have proven that the stress-relieving effects of exercise puts our brains in a good state for learning.
  • Exercise as a team. If they are finding exercise difficult, encourage and demonstrate how you challenge yourself. Acknowledging your children’s strengths, successes and challenges through exercise, may create opportunities for more open discussion about other things on their minds.
  • Listen. Communication is made easier by the calming effects of repetitive actions in exercise. Take advantage of this opportunity to react with empathy rather than judgement.
  • Make time for active free play’ (which may just be running around the garden). Less structured activities can give your children opportunities to learn new skills.

Play your part in Relationships Education

The COVID-19 pandemic reminds us just how important healthy, nurturing and dependable relationships are to all of us. Exercising together can allow you to role model strong and positive relationships and character traits’ such as perseverance and self-respect, which are central to the forthcoming Relationships Education curriculum in schools.

Just try your best

We are living through an unprecedented global crisis. It is impossible to provide perfect home learning every day, while also juggling working from home and your other daily tasks. No one can stay calm, fun and creative all the time, especially during lockdown. Just try your best. And take inspiration from Joe Wicks — use the power of exercise and supportive relationships to help you get through this time!

For more guidance on keeping healthy and exercising, see Sport England’s advice.
Read our findings on the M.A.D programme here.

Our blog is a place for a range of opinions and debate on parents and their role in their schools and their children’s education. Whilst we think this debate is really important, we don’t always agree with the views being expressed.