Phase 3 of Sask.'s reopening should include kids' recreation

Saskatchewan’s next step in its reopening plan seems to forget about our children. 

Children need an outlet and places to channel energy

Krista Broda and her two sons hang out in a fort they built in their house during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Submitted by Krista Broda)

Saskatchewan's next step in its reopening plan seems to forget about our children. 

Last week we learned that if all continues to go well in Saskatchewan, Phase 3 of the plan to reopen the province will begin on June 8.

This phase includes a slew of things that we adults have spent months waiting for, the non-essential services that bring us joy and contribute to our mental health. You will be able to go back to the gym, get that long-overdue manicure, meet your friends at a local pub for a pint or get that tattoo you've been thinking about.

Things are looking promising for us adults, but what about our kids? Visibly absent from this announcement are municipal parks and playgrounds, arenas, libraries, movie theatres, museums, summer camps and any form of youth recreational or athletic activities. 

Our children need an outlet and places to safely channel their energy.

An unfathomable change

Nine whirlwind weeks ago our children's lives were turned upside down when they were told they would not be returning to their classrooms for an undefined period of time. By the end of that week, all of their team sports and favourite activities had been cancelled. We broke the news that they could no longer hug their grandparents or see their friends. 

They awoke one day to the sight of playgrounds draped in caution tape and orange barricades on the basketball courts. 

Everything they had ever known and loved outside of their home, everything we've always encouraged them to get involved in and enjoy, was now considered dangerous. 

A child's mental health is rooted in activity, social interaction and the freedom to explore.- Krista Broda

My two sons have been involved in organized sports since they were able to walk.  A busy, social and active life is all they've ever known. 

To us, this new world was scary and uncertain. To them it was unfathomable.

Joy on ice

It started with the always-challenging toddler skating lessons. From the moment they mastered the skill of how to get back up after falling, they asked for a hockey stick.  From the moment they held a hockey stick, there was no looking back.

They had discovered their greatest joy.  The inside of a rink is their happy place.  It's where they escape their day-to-day stresses, channel their energy and just do something they love. It improves the quality of their lives and does wonders for their mental health. 

Krista Broda's sons fell in love with hockey young. She says the rink is their happy place. (Supplied by Krista Broda)

It doesn't matter if they are at a public skate or in a locker room with their teammates. As soon as their skates are tied, a spark ignites inside of them. That spark is all every parent wants for their child and I haven't seen it for months.

Lately I am beginning to wonder if it will ever come back. 

Screen time stress

I am not ashamed to admit that social isolation and a lack of recreation has taken a drastic and increasingly apparent toll on the mental health of my children. 

When I talk to friends these days, we all have one thing in common. Our kids are spending way too much time in front of a screen. My children have been getting their hockey fix by playing more NHL 20 than I would like to admit — more than we would ever allow outside of a pandemic. 

They have won the virtual Stanley Cup nine times. They want us to start hanging championship banners from our ceiling. 

Many parents are now working from home, juggling distance learning and a lack of recreation. TV, video games and iPads are now the easiest way to keep kids occupied.  Studies have shown that too much technology use can affect a child's academic engagement, mental health and overall well-being. 

It's hard to imagine there will not be lasting side effects from this. 

'Our kids need to play again'

While the risk of COVID-19 remains, Saskatchewan has done well enough maintaining a flat curve that certain facilities for children could be opened cautiously and safely, with distancing protocols in place for Phase 3. 

Maybe your child finds joy in browsing a library.  Maybe they love to spend an afternoon at a skate park, on a soccer field, at a baseball diamond or in dance class. 

Krista Broda's two sons love to play sports and are especially missing them during pandemic restrictions. (Supplied by Krista Broda)

As a parent all we can do right now is encourage them to be patient, but it's getting harder as they see non-essential services around them begin to open while the activities and recreational facilities they desire most remain closed. 

We tell them this can't be rushed, but soon they will be seeing groups of up to 30 people gathering in a backyard and wonder why they are not permitted to play on a baseball team less than half that size. They will be seeing provinces such as B.C., Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and P.E.I. begin to cautiously allow outdoor recreation, youth sports and libraries and wonder why they can't sit on a swing or go down a slide. 

They will wonder why they are being left behind. 

A child's mental health is rooted in activity, social interaction and the freedom to explore. It is crucial to their development.

It's time that their well-being becomes a priority in our province. The luxuries in a child's life are different than those of an adult, but are just as important. 

Our kids need to play again. They need to be included in the plan to reopen Saskatchewan. 

This column is part of CBC's Opinion section. For more information about this section, please read this editor's blog and our FAQ.

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Krista Broda is a sassy, relatable mother of two busy boys originally from Vancouver Island, but now residing in Regina. She loves coffee, sarcasm, chicken wings and all things Saskatchewan.


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