"They tear around the house like caged animals": The challenge of parenting big kids right now.

Juggling homeschooling and work has become the new normal for most parents in Australia in 2020.

While far from ideal, we are finding some rhythm with this home-based learning for our nine-year-old son Toby. He works through a daily schedule from his amazing teacher, we have a couple of breaks for snacks and we are all done by 2pm.

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This is when I’m finding the real challenge of parenting a ‘big kid’ in the time of COVID-19 begins.

Toby is a ball of energy; used to notching up 15,000 steps a day on his Fitbit, even before he went to one of his regular after-school activities.

Prior to the new normal, Toby would spend recess and lunch playing handball with friends. After school was filled with soccer training, swimming or tennis lessons and playdates with mates.

Image: Supplied.

An online PE session or a daily walk around the block is fine for us parents and our three-year-old son Leo, but for Toby, it's just not enough.


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On the weekend we attempted to tire Toby out by going for a local bike ride and there were a few other families with big kids doing the same.

On the way home, as I grabbed a takeaway coffee, the young barista commented that families should only be exercising in their backyards.

She was right of course, but for big, energetic kids it is not quite so simple. We are also lucky enough to have a backyard Toby can use for a daily dose of handball and fresh air, some families are not.

A UK-based friend and mum of twin 11-year-old girls recently told me that this new reality was only just sinking in.

“Our lives are usually busy and whilst I’m enjoying not having to rush from here to there for football and athletics, the importance of expending all that energy is becoming more evident as the girls tear around the house like caged animals,” she said

“Emotions are running high too – from anger and yelling to sadness and sobbing”.

Like Toby, her twins are missing the sport and the activity as well as the social connections, and they are old enough to understand some of the worries us parents face.

The fact they are in year six at school is also especially poignant.

“I just feel really sad for them at a time when they should be making precious memories with their friends.

“Each week marks another event or milestone in their year six calendar lost, never to be replaced. Last week’s football tournament, this week’s trip away; something they’ve been looking forward to forever.

“Whilst all this time as a family can be lovely, they should be getting ready to make the move to high school, becoming more independent, building up their confidence in much needed social gatherings. It's not easy for them, stuck at home every day just with family.”

As we all learn to accept the new rules about what we can and can’t do, big kids like Toby and the twins have to adapt and learn too.

As parents we are trying to help them navigate this new world as best we can. Hopeful that one day they can get back into the park or on the beach, playing and burning up all that energy with their friends, just like big kids should.

Feature Image: Instagram/@lauracjackel